On July 8, 2021, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it issued a Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order (SSURO) to Allied BioScience for its product SurfaceWise2. SurfaceWise2, a residual antimicrobial surface coating, was previously authorized for emergency use in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. Specific use sites included American Airlines aircraft and airport facilities and two orthopedic facilities in Texas. A discussion of these emergency authorizations can be found here.

EPA asserts that the company was marketing, selling, and distributing SurfaceWise2 in ways that were inconsistent with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the terms and conditions of the emergency exemption authorizations, and issued an SSURO that requires Allied BioScience to stop selling and distributing SurfaceWise2 immediately. The SSURO will remain in effect unless revoked, terminated, suspended, or modified in writing by EPA.

Additionally, EPA states that it is revoking SurfaceWise2 emergency exemptions for Arkansas and Texas based on the FIFRA violations that EPA is alleging and scientific concerns regarding product performance. According to EPA, since January, new data became available that led EPA to review comprehensively new and existing information regarding product efficacy. EPA states that its laboratory testing indicates the product’s performance is less reliable under real-world conditions than, presumably, data that EPA previously reviewed may have indicated to EPA, particularly when it is exposed to moisture or abrasion.

In May 2021, EPA received a revocation request from Oklahoma indicating the emergency situation was no longer applicable in the state. EPA stated that it is accepting Oklahoma’s rationale and revoking the state’s emergency exemption on those grounds. This action is in addition to revoking the emergency exemptions for Arkansas and Texas.

Commentary

EPA initially approved in August 2020 the emergency exemptions for SurfaceWise2 for specific locations under Section 18 of FIFRA for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on surfaces for up to seven days. In January 2021, EPA announced approval of extensions for the first-ever long-lasting antiviral product for use against SARS-CoV-2, with claims providing residual surface control of coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, for up to 30 days on undisturbed (e.g., not routinely disinfected with List N products) non-porous treated surfaces. These approvals were novel and touted by EPA in its effort to combat the coronavirus. It is not unusual for EPA to issue an SSURO to stop sales for a product that is being marketed, sold, and distributed in a manner inconsistent with its label, but the issuance of an SSURO in this instance is noteworthy given EPA’s prior support of the product. Likewise, the fact that EPA conducted its own efficacy testing on this product is atypical. The implications of EPA’s conducting its own testing of the product could potentially have broader implications for novel antimicrobial products claiming long-term efficacy. Additionally noteworthy is the fact that this case emphasizes again EPA’s view that products intended to combat COVID-19 on surfaces are not in need of emergency or expedited approvals.