EPA sues VF's North Face over "pesticide" shoes
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint against VF Corp, owner of the North Face brand, on Tuesday 22 September, claiming that more than 70 styles of shoes advertised as bacteria-killing by the company had not been registered with the agency.
"The company sold the products making unsubstantiated claims that the footwear would prevent disease-causing bacteria," said the EPA in a statement.
In order for a manufacturer to make such claims, the EPA first tests, and then registers the pesticide.
The brands from North Face included "Fury Gore-Tex XCR," "Hedgehog SCR" and "Off-Chute," advertised as preventing bacterial and fungal growth for their wearers.
Although North Face did incorporate registered pesticides into the shoes, the claim that they would protect users against bacteria went too far, the EPA said.
It added that "unverified public health claims" can confuse consumers and lead them to believe they are being protected from disease when they may not be.
The shoes were sold from Jan 1, 2008 through March 12, 2008 at its flagship San Francisco store as well as at various U.S. retailers.
VF disputed the EPA's assertions, but said it had immediately stopped making the claims the agency found objectionable, removing them from tags and changing product packaging.
"The EPA has not made any claims that the North Face products are unsafe or contain any unsafe substances," the company said.
The case, filed with the EPA's regional hearing clerk in San Francisco, represents 162 counts involving the sale or distribution of the products. Each violation carries a civil penalty of up to $6500, making the total possible penalty over $1 million. (Reporting by Alexandria Sage, editing by Leslie Gevirtz)