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Save Yourself from Fraudulent Disinfectant Products

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Sep 02, 2020

Background

Prompted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, surges of profiteers have entered a variety of high-demand product categories, from masks and gloves, to hand sanitizers, and more recently to disinfectants. Many of these entrants—some of whom pivoted out of financial necessity, others of whom had capital and sensed opportunity to cash in—are operating in a “Wild West” of sorts, with complete ignorance or disregard of regulations and quality specifications.

  • N95-style masks imported from overseas have fallen short of certification standards.
  • Sanitizers have been improperly labeled, riddled with false claims, formulated with suspect ingredients, or otherwise out of compliance with FDA guidelines.
  • The disinfectant market is now being exploited in a similar manner. We will reference the handful of examples pictured above throughout this post:
    1. Disinfectant that was falsely labeled as a registered disinfectant.
    2. Unregistered stickers that claim to provide protection against viruses without supporting evidence reviewed by the EPA.
    3. Unregistered disinfectant wipes shipped from Asia without EPA registration.
    4. Unregistered disinfectant that promises long-lasting or residual protection specifically from COVID-19 without supporting evidence reviewed by the EPA. 
    5. Unregistered lanyard that claims to provide 60-day residual protection against the virus without supporting evidence reviewed by the EPA.
    6. Services claiming use of multi-week residual disinfectant without supporting evidence and in direct conflict with statements from the EPA.

EPA Regulation

As explained in a previous post, disinfectants are considered pesticides—further classified as antimicrobial pesticides—because they control bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungi, which are considered pests. As such, they are regulated by the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, and any disinfectant sold or distributed in the United States must be registered with the EPA.

In order to register a product, manufacturers submit:

  • Proposed labeling.
  • Safety data.
  • Efficacy data:
    • In order to be labeled a disinfectant, a product must meet specific testing requirements against certain bacteria.
    • Any virucidal claims, such as efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), are considered additional claims, and they must also be supported by data and approved by the EPA.

If the EPA is satisfied with the information provided by the manufacturer, registration is granted. While the burden of EPA regulations and registration should pose a larger hurdle to entry into the disinfectant market, the tidal wave of newcomers is both mostly unaware of their violations and too large for the EPA to police. Eventually, these dishonest marketers will receive fines and be ordered to cease and desist, but until then, buyers (and users) must beware.

Illegal Disinfectants

Illegal disinfectants are sold or distributed without a valid EPA registration. This includes products without an EPA registration number listed on the label—such as examples 2 through 5 above—as well as products using a fake EPA registration number—such as example 1 (click here for more information).

To ensure that a disinfectant is legal:

  • Don’t buy or use products from suspicious sources.
  • Don’t buy or use products that seem unusual in their packaging or labeling.
  • Check the label, which must be in English, for:
    • A valid EPA registration number (validity can be confirmed here).
    • A list of active ingredients, as any product registered with the EPA must state them on the label.
    • Hazard and precautionary statements.

Illegal Claims

As stated in the EPA Regulation section above, disinfectants may only make virucidal claims that are supported by data and approved by the EPA. This includes both legally registered and illegally unregistered disinfectants claiming to kill SARS-CoV-2.

As stated in the EPA Regulation section above, disinfectants may only make virucidal claims that are supported by data and approved by the EPA. This includes both legally registered and illegally unregistered disinfectants claiming to kill SARS-CoV-2.

There are also disinfectants approved by the EPA for use against SARS-CoV-2, based not on a demonstrated efficacy against SARS-CoV-2, but on demonstrated efficacy against:

  • A pathogen that is harder to kill than SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).
  • A different human coronavirus similar to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19).

To confirm the legitimacy of a disinfectant’s claim that it outright kills SARS-CoV-2 or that it is recommended for use against SARS-CoV-2 due to other kill claims:

  • Navigate here and input the EPA registration number found on the label. If there are 3 sets of numbers (separated by hyphens), only input the first 2. 
  • If there are no matching records found, the disinfectant’s claims are illegal—as is most evident in examples 4 and 5 above (which claim 99.9% protection against COVID-19 and to "block coronavirus," respectively).
  • If there is a matching record found, but the product information does not match the information on your label, it is likely a sub-registration marketed under a different name, which is legal. 
  • Note that List N search results also indicate whether a product is proven or simply expected to kill SARS-CoV-2.
Because the EPA has not evaluated the “long-lasting” or “residual” efficacy of disinfectants against viruses, however, NO disinfectant can legally claim effectiveness against viruses . . .

Residual Claims and Treated Articles

There are products that claim 24-hour sanitizing against bacteria only. 

Because the EPA has not evaluated the "long-lasting' or "residual" efficacy of disinfectants against viruses, however, NO disinfectant can legally claim effectiveness against viruses over hours—as in example 4 (24 hours)—days—as in example 5 (60 days)—or weeks—as in example 6 (36 weeks), with the exception of 1 recently granted short-term exemption.

In a similar vein, there are antimicrobial pesticides that can be incorporated into plastics, textiles, or other materials to protect the “treated article” from mold or bacteria that would harm it, such as a shower curtain. These pesticides are used more in the manner of preservatives, preventing discoloration, odor, or deterioration, and treated articles may not have any claims associated with public health. In other words, treated articles CANNOT legally claim that they are effective against viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2.

In other words, treated articles CANNOT legally claim that they are effective against viruses, such as SARS-CoV-2.

Our Promise

We would like to take this opportunity to assure our customers that each Betco® disinfectant is registered with the EPA and adheres to their every guideline. Not only can we guarantee our total regulatory compliance, but as demonstrated by our legacy in disinfectants, we can also guarantee their quality and efficacy.

We have prioritized production toward disinfectants that appear on List N and are recommended for use against SARS-CoV-2. We are currently maximizing output of all products effective against the spread of COVID-19, and we continue to take every possible step to ensure the health and safety of our customers.

If you would like to request information about List N disinfectants, please click here to fill out the online form, and a Betco representative will contact you.