Scotts Miracle-Gro, one of the largest pesticide manufacturers in the world, was ordered by a U.S. federal court to pay a record $12.5 million in penalties for selling bird food products with insecticides, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
The Ohio-based firm will have to pay a $4 million criminal fine and do community service for violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which oversees the distribution, sale, and production of pesticides.
The firm will also have to pay more than $6 million in civil penalties to the Environmental Protection Agency, invest $2 million in environmental projects, and contribute around $500,000 to organizations that protect the habitats of birds, federal prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said that the pesticide-laced bird food was, in fact, harmful to birds. They added that the labels of such products, which are not approved by regulators, were incorrect and misled consumers.
“As the world’s largest marketer of residential use pesticides, Scotts has a special obligation to make certain that it observes the laws governing the sale and use of its products,” Ignacia S. Moreno, an environmental attorney with the Justice Department, said in a statement. She added that Miracle-Gro is paying the largest fine of its kind in U.S. history.
Prosecutors said that the firm sold the pesticide-treated bird food for two years before the company voluntarily recalled it in 2008. Pesticide was sprayed on the food to protect it from insects while it was being stored, but the EPA forbids the types of pesticides that were used to treat the product.
Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, pointed out that such pesticides on bird food could cause serious illness in humans as well.
Scotts placed “products into the hands of consumers without the proper authorization or warning label,” she added.
The company admitted to putting the pesticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II, which was described by prosecutors as extremely toxic to fish, on the products in the two-year span, authorities said. Actellic 5E is harmful if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin, and it should be handled with rubber gloves, according to a warning.
Scotts admitted that distributing the bird food was not in line with the company’s core values.
“Our consumers are at the heart of our business, and I hope they’ll see our openness, cooperation, and acceptance of responsibility are all a part of our commitment to provide products they can trust and rely upon,” Scotts Miracle-Gro Chairman and CEO Jim Hagedorn said in a statement.