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From September 26, 2001

Memphis Company Falsely Labeled its Pesticides

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in what has been called the biggest enforcement action ever in a pesticide case, has accused Mirco Flo Company of illegally marketing millions of pounds of insecticides containing falsely labeled imported ingredients.

In a civil complaint served on September 12, the agency said that, from 1996 to 1999, the Micro Flo Company, a pesticide manufacturer owned by BASF, imported thousands of drums of insecticide ingredients with false paperwork, which indicated that chemicals came from a manufacturer in India approved by EPA. The chemicals actually came from unapproved manufacturers in several countries.

EPA is seeking $3.7 million in penalties for violations of federal pesticide laws. Illegal importation and false labeling of pesticide ingredients is not uncommon, but is often difficult to prove. In this case, the agency visited a Micro Flo factory in Georgia where the chemicals were used and found abundant evidence to support its case. Both Micro Flo and BASF denied intentional wrongdoing, and called the agency's action inappropriate and a result of ambiguities in the law.

American pesticide manufacturers or sellers must seek registration from EPA for products made or sold here and for imported ingredients to ensure that there are no harmful impurities and that the products contain the appropriate, tested ingredients.

EPA officials described thousands of drums of ingredients that had been imported with labels saying they were from United Phosphorus, an approved pesticide manufacturer in Bombay, when they actually came from many factories in other countries. United Phosphorus has now sued Micro Flo and BASF. James C. Wright, a lawyer for United Phosphorus, said that the companies' actions were "in blatant disregard for the health of American families and children."

The chemicals in question were permethrin, commonly used for control of mosquitoes, termites and cockroaches, and acephate, a common garden pesticide ingredient.