The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is authorized to take enforcement action to prevent the sale or distribution of disinfectants with false or misleading claims on their labeling, as well as prevent the sale or distribution of unregistered disinfectants when the seller or distributor is making claims that they work against SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19). Additionally, the EPA action also intends to prevent the sale or distribution of registered pesticides that are not permitted to make SARS-CoV-2 claims by the terms of their registration.


Many questions have been raised concerning certain labeling claims for cleaning products. Specifically, what types of claims would require that a cleaning product be registered as a pesticide under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)?


Simply put, EPA enforcement creates a supply chain reaction that begins with retailers, then quickly moves upstream to intermediaries and product manufacturers. In addition to potential penalties and fines, enforcement of false claims affects everyone in the supply chain, and its impact can erode brands, consumer confidence, and public trust.


This article discusses:
Guidelines to examine whether your cleaning product may need to be registered as a pesticide with the EPA, and how the WERCSmart program provides safeguards within the registration process that can help reveal potential issues.


Does your cleaning product need to be registered as a pesticide with the EPA?


A ‘Pesticide’ is defined by the EPA as any item of merchandise which is advertised or claims to kill, repel or prevent the growth of any living organism (e.g., anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal).

 

Even if the product is not a chemical, your product may be considered a pesticide if it makes any claims of protection from pathogens or microorganisms that extend beyond the item itself.  Examples of such claims include "antibacterial," "bactericidal," "germicidal," "germ-resistant," "bacteria-resistant," and "kills pathogenic bacteria”. 

 

Further information is available on the EPA’s website that outlines the Agency’s interpretation of the statutory and regulatory language applicable to products marketed as cleaning products.




WERCSmart provides safeguards throughout product registration


UL's WERCSmart program facilitates secure data exchange between manufacturers, intermediaries, and retailers. In cases when the product manufacturer or an intermediary is unaware that their product may be in question, the program provides the following safeguards within the WERCSmart registration process that can help reveal potential issues:


Product registration questions help alleviate potential risk  – The WERCSmart product registration process is a logic tree of question streams based on a product's intended use (defined as "Product Type") and guided by the requirements for compliance according to state, provincial, and federal regulations. Depending on the type of product, certain question streams include safeguards that are designed to help identify potential areas of data entry inconsistencies as they relate to products that claim to sterilize, disinfect, sanitize and/or contain pesticides.

For example, if a supplier selects their Product Type as a sunscreen, but the product also contains a bug repellent, the sunscreen question stream will present an assortment of multiple-choice options intended to keep the user from providing data that is inconsistent with what was previously entered in the registration.
(see image below – click to enlarge)
 


Even though the product’s intended use originated as a sunscreen, one of the safeguard multiple-choice options to select is "Prevents, Destroys, Repels Pests (Pests are in Mold, Mildew, Fungus, Rodents, Insects, and/or Spiders)". Once the question is answered, the logic stream realigns, and the subsequent set of questions recalibrate in order for WERCSmart to continue helping the manufacturer create a complete and accurate compliance registration profile for the product that is both a sunscreen and bug repellent.

 

This type of safeguard can be particularly helpful when a claim is being made as to whether or not a cleaning product works against viruses (including SARS-Cov-2), bacteria, or microorganisms. Viewing the same image above, a cleaning product manufacturer would have the option to select "Claims to sterilize, disinfect, sanitize or otherwise rid of bacteria, viruses or microorganisms that are infectious or pathogenic to humans."

 

The fluidity and logic behind a question stream help registrants identify potential areas of data entry inconsistencies related to products that claim to sterilize, disinfect, sanitize and/or contain pesticides.



Smart pop-ups alert users during formulation table entries – As part of the registration process, manufacturers are required to enter product ingredients into a formula table. If there is an ingredient known to be common in products containing pesticides, a pop-up will appear as an additional safeguard and will require confirmation that the information is accurate.
(see image below – click to enlarge)




Required product labels – As an additional check to assist in preventing the sale or distribution of disinfectants with false or misleading claims on product labeling, WERCSmart requires a PDF of the full product label to be uploaded as part of product registration.

(see image below – click to enlarge)






Summary

 

EPA enforcement affects everyone in the supply chain. In addition to potential penalties and fines, its impact can erode brands, consumer confidence, and public trust. 

 

For products that claim to sterilize, disinfect, sanitize and/or contain pesticides, the WERCSmart program provides the following safeguards within the registration process that can help suppliers identify potential issues:

  • Question streams – The fluidity and logic embedded within question streams help safeguard registrants by identifying potential areas of data entry inconsistencies

  • Smart pop-ups – When executing formulation table entries, smart pop-ups help safeguard users by requiring confirmation as to whether a product’s ingredients may or may not contain known pesticides

  • Product labels – Requiring full product labels as part of the product registration process helps check against the potential of false or misleading claims




Questions, assistance, and resources

 

If you have any questions or require further assistance, help is available by using the WERCSmart Live Chat feature here in Customer Support, or read through the additional resources below for more information:

 

EPA.govDetermining If a Cleaning Product Is a Pesticide Under FIFRA


EPA.govWill EPA take enforcement action against companies making false claims that their disinfectants work against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)?


EPA.govDisinfectant Use and Coronavirus (COVID-19)


EPA.govCompliance Advisory: What You Need to Know Regarding Products Making Claims to Kill the Coronavirus Causing COVID-19


WERCSmart Customer SupportUsing WERCSmart's Pesticide Registration Report

UL Training CourseFIFRA US Pesticide Regulation






The WERCSmart program provides a secure, permission-based platform that facilitates the safe exchange of product information between manufacturers, intermediaries, and retailers with the highest standards of confidentiality and service.