On September 21, 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a complaint against VF Corporation for the alleged sale and distribution of unregistered pesticides through its outdoor gear company, The North Face. VF Corporation faces up to $1 million in fines for selling shoes containing an unregistered pesticide and making unverified health-related claims for about 70 shoe products using AgION silver ion technology. Although the products do not claim to use nanomaterials, the alleged claims in the complaint are similar to claims for antimicrobial products containing nanomaterials. In fact, this lawsuit is similar to the February 2008 suit filed by USEPA against a technology company for allegedly making unsubstantiated claims about the antimicrobial capabilities of its computers keyboards and mouse accessories.
In its complaint, USEPA stated the company made unsubstantiated claims about its footwear, including claims that “AgION antimicrobial silver agent inhibits the growth of disease-causing bacteria” and that its product “prevents bacterial and fungal growth”. Products discovered online and evidence found at The North Face retail store in San Francisco led USEPA to file the complaint under the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which prohibits unsubstantiated public health claims regarding unregistered products.