99-Cent Stores fined for pesticides

COMMERCE - A federal judge has ordered 99-Cent Only Stores to pay more than $409,000 in penalties for the sale of illegal, unregistered and misbranded pesticides contained in household products.Out of a total of 166 violations, 164 involved the sale of a household cleaner called Bref Limpieza y Disinfeccion Total con Densicloro (Bref Complete Cleaning and Disinfection with Densicloro). The product was not registered with the EPA, despite pesticidal claims on the label. The product was imported from Mexico and made statements in Spanish that it disinfects or sanitizes surfaces. The other two products involved were Farmer's Secret Berry & Produce Cleaner, an unregistered pesticide, and Pic Boric Acid Roach Killer III, which was misbranded because EPA-approved labels were upside-down or inside-out, making them difficult to read. The $409,490 fine is the largest contest penalty ever ordered by an EPA administrative law judge against a retailer under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. "All pesticide distributors - discounters and high-end retailers alike - must comply with the law. This company's disregard for state and federal law in its business practices has led to a penalty that reflects the seriousness of the violations," said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA's regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. FIFRA is a federal law that regulates the sale, distribution and use of pesticides. Before selling a pesticide in the United States, companies must register it with the EPA. Each producer, seller and distributor must also ensure that the registered pesticide is labeled according to agency requirements. "Consumers who bring cleaning products into their homes expect them to be safe and effective, with clear labeling that gives them the facts," said Kathy Taylor, associate director of the communities and ecosystems division in the EPA's regional office. "This penalty should send a deterrent message to retailers that they must comply with the law regulating pesticides." According to an EPA press release, 99-Cent Only Stores illegally sold at least 658 bottles of the Bref product at stores in California, Arizona and Nevada. The violations were discovered during multiple inspections by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Nevada Department of Agriculture from 2004-08. In his decision assessing the penalty, the judge concluded, "It is the opinion of this tribunal that such penalty appropriately reflects the gravity of the violations, including the harm to the FIFRA regulatory program caused thereby, and will serve as a deterrent to [99-Cent Only Stores] and other companies committing similar violations in the future." The 99-Cent Only Stores retail chain is headquartered in the city of Commerce and includes 273 stores, most in California.

********** Published: September 16, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 22