Poison prevention has been one of several top priorities of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) during the COVID-19 pandemic. President Trump’s recent speculation about the ingestion of disinfectants as a potential COVID-19 treatment prompted the agency to tweet an urgent safety warning the following day, and product manufacturers have issued similar warning statements about proper use of household cleaning products.
Even before this “ingestion incident,” the CPSC had focused on poison prevention as a top COVID-19 product safety priority. Under the Poison Prevention Packaging Act, originally passed by Congress in 1952 (then the “Poisons Act”) and exclusively enforced by the CPSC, manufacturers are required to test, certify conformance with, and market household cleaning products containing toxic chemicals, as well as prescription drugs and certain over-the-counter drugs (such as aspirin), in special child-resistant packaging.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enforces similar packaging requirements for certain EPA-registered disinfectant products, such as products that exceed specified toxicity levels, under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. Under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (“FHSA”), enforced by the CPSC, products containing toxic substances must contain precautionary warning statements, such as “Danger” and “Harmful if Swallowed.”
Products that are not compliant with special packaging and labeling requirements are considered misbranded under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or the FHSA and can trigger mandatory hazard reporting to the CPSC, as well as corrective action such as recalls. Failure to report or late reporting of hazardous or noncompliant products also can trigger government investigations, enforcement actions, and civil or criminal penalties under the Consumer Product Safety Act.
COVID-19 has required the consumer product industry to confront an array of challenges, as businesses seek to protect the health of their employees and consumers, while navigating major supply-chain disruptions, testing lab closures, and unanticipated changes in production and consumer demand for products. Consumer product manufacturers, importers, and retailers should remain vigilant about product safety compliance during this extraordinary time.
Summarized below are the top five points for consumer product companies to keep in mind during the COVID-19 pandemic: