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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

EPA Threatens North Face With Potential $1M in Fines Over 'Unsubstantiated Product Claims'

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 2:30 PM

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Does this shoe fight germs or not?
​If you're selling a shoe you say fights germs, you better be able to back it up. The North Face's parent company, VF Outdoor, Inc., learned that lesson the hard way recently when the Environmental Protection Agency accused it of selling and distributing unregistered pesticides (in the form of bacteria-fighting shoes). VF could face up to $1 million in federal fines.

"At issue were more than 70 styles of footwear that incorporated an AgION silver treated footbed," said an EPA press release, which also listed several public health claims that the company made online and on its packaging about the footwear's ability to inhibit the growth of disease-causing bacterial and fungal growth. 

The EPA collected its evidence against the North Face both online and at The North Face store on Post Street in San Francisco. When the federal agency notified The North Face of the violation, the company stopped claiming that their footwear protected against germs. All the claims were subsequently yanked from the company's Web site, and the product packaging was revised, according to the EPA.

VF apparently did not change the fundamental make-up of its shoes, however. Whether this means the shoes aren't actually pesticides (and North Face was fibbing before) or the company simply isn't claiming they are  -- even though they really are (meaning the EPA should probably have a look) -- isn't clear.

But VF wants you to know that the products are absolutely safe for consumers. "The EPA's recent claims against The North Face products are based solely on descriptive statements online and on hang tags respecting sales of certain styles of footwear that occurred between January 2008 and March 2008," explained a company statement. The statement added that the company disputes the the EPA's assertions, but didn't say how.   

According to the EPA, VF Outdoor committed a violation the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

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Ashley Harrell

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