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Dozens of companies under investigation by Utah for COVID-19 claims

Posted at 4:01 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 19:13:25-04

SALT LAKE CITY  — About two dozen companies are under investigation by Utah's Department of Agriculture & Food for making false or misleading claims about their disinfectants and how effective they are at combating COVID-19.

"What we’ve found since the beginning of the pandemic is a very large increase in the use of disinfectants and just the availability of different products," said Henry Nahalewski, the pesticide program manager for UDAF.

UDAF provides regulatory oversight for all disinfectants and sanitizers, since they technically are pesticides. Nahalewski said that since the pandemic began in mid-March, they have seen an increasing number of new products.

"We’ve been looking at these products to make sure they’re legitimate and they’re legal, that things are being used properly," he told FOX 13.

The agency would not disclose what companies are under investigation, but most of the problems center around making misleading claims about the effectiveness of their products.

"A lot of products out there are saying they’re effective against coronavirus and they have a long residual. Weeks, months," Nahalewski said. "The fact is, painfully few disinfectants will last beyond the time that they’re wet."

UDAF said its investigators reach out to companies to work with them on correcting the claims. But it could rise to the level of a criminal charge for companies.

"At first we try to go with compliance assistance. We tell them what the rules are, what the laws are, if they comply," Nahalewski said. "If they refuse? We’ll take stronger action."

Beyond misleading claims, UDAF has also been conducting inspections at institutions to ensure that disinfectants are being applied correctly. Some will spray an area with disinfectant and then immediately wipe it up which makes it ineffective. Nahalewski said their agents will go out to businesses and institutions to check and make sure the product is being correctly applied.

Consumers should look to see if a product has EPA certification before purchasing, he added. The Environmental Protection Agency posts a list of products that are effective here. For more information on disinfectants, check out the Utah Department of Agriculture & Food's site here.