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Firms Fined Over Antibacterial Claims

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four California firms, including two in Orange County, were cited Tuesday by a federal agency for making unproven claims that their household products could kill harmful bacteria.

The Environmental Protection Agency is seeking penalties totaling more than $400,000 from the companies, which include Buena Park-based Micro Pen of USA and Pacific International Group in Laguna Hills. Also cited were Alterna Inc. in Beverly Hills and Zoo-med Laboratories of San Luis Obispo.

Micro Pen marketed its ballpoint pen, Micro Cleen-Ball, as an anti-bacterial product, claiming it fought bacteria for the life of the pen and reduced the risk of eye, ear, skin, urinary tract and other infections, and helped prevent food poisoning and bronchitis, the federal agency said.

Pacific International, the EPA said, claimed that its anti-bacterial cutting board and washcloth kill and prevent the growth of bacteria.

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Pacific International owner Takashi Shioya said the company had used EPA-approved materials but that the company had received conflicting information about whether it had to register the products itself.

“It’s not like we had a totally off-the-wall product,” Shioya said. The products have since been taken off the market for reasons unrelated to the EPA action, Shioya said.

Micro Pen officials declined to comment, saying they had not thoroughly reviewed the citation.

By federal law, a product that claims it can kill bacteria must be registered with the EPA. Companies must submit tests showing the product works and provide data about the product’s toxicity. The citations issued Tuesday did not say the products did not work as claimed but that the companies had not registered the products.

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“We’re trying to protect consumers and make sure that the product works and it’s not going to harm somebody in any way,” said Amy Miller, an EPA project officer. “People rely on these products to protect themselves from salmonella or E-coli, and we don’t want to give them a false sense of security.”

Nationwide, the EPA said, companies have been making unproven anti-bacterial claims to capitalize on a growing market for antimicrobial products.

Since October, the EPA has filed complaints against 18 companies that asserted their products killed bacteria.

At a Chicago housewares trade show last spring, seven manufacturers were ordered to immediately stop selling products making such claims.


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