Border Officers Seize 30,000 ‘Made-in-China’ Necklaces Claiming to Provide Protection From COVID-19

May 29, 2021 Updated: June 1, 2021

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers recently seized 30,000 fraudulent Chinese-made necklaces that claimed to protect wearers from COVID-19.

The agents described the “Virus Shut Out” necklaces as similar to lanyards with a blue packet on them; the packets were filled with chlorine dioxide, which the packaging claims would “create an anti-bacterial cloud” that keeps the virus away when worn around the neck.

However, prolonged exposure to chlorine dioxide can pose health and safety risks. Side effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include severe breathing difficulties and eye, nose, and throat irritation.

Border officials discovered the necklaces in a tractor-trailer bound for Mexico at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Arizona, the CBP announced in a May 27 statement. The shipment contained three pallets of necklaces, which the CBP had seized for violating federal pesticide laws.

CBP’s Pharmaceuticals Centers for Excellence and Expertise said the necklaces carry a total value of $479,700, or roughly $16 each. The agency also seized items from the trailer with counterfeit trademarks, including T-shirts, footwear, and textiles, which they estimate to be worth approximately $24,000.

While the discovery took place on April 16, the agency didn’t make it public until May 27.

virus shut out
A shipment of the “Virus Shut Out” products, which are marketed to protect against COVID-19 and contain the hazardous pesticide Chlorine Dioxide, was seized in Nogales, Ariz., on April 16, 2021. (Courtesy of Customs and Border Protection)

The back of the product also contains 16 warnings. Wearers shouldn’t put the necklaces in their underwear, should avoid direct skin contact with them, and shouldn’t use them while sleeping, the packaging says.

It noted that the “effectiveness of this product is subject to conditions of usage,” and cautioned individuals to “be careful with your clothes” as “this product has the function of bleaching.”

The manufacturer of the product is Yiwu Haoyi Biotechnology Co. Ltd., from Yiwu City in Zhejiang, a coastal province and a major manufacturing hub in the country. The company doesn’t appear to have a website in either Chinese or English.

China has been a major source of fake goods coming into the U.S. market. Department of Homeland Security data has shown that the CBP made 27,599 seizures of counterfeit items in the 2019 fiscal year, of which 48 percent originated from China, followed by 35 percent from Hong Kong.

counterfeit masks
Customs and Border Protection noted that this counterfeit mask from China, seized on April 7, 2021, infringes on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) trademark. (Customs and Border Protection)

China has accounted for approximately 51 percent of counterfeit or substandard COVID-19 related products from October 2019 to Sept. 30 of last year. This includes over 12.7 million masks and more than 177,000 unapproved virus test kits.

Over the past two months, the CBP also seized fake currencies totaling $685,000 from China, as well as over 171,000 fraudulent Chinese N95 masks being shipped to New York state.

The CBP warns that phony products tend to be of inferior quality.

“Peeling labels, low-quality ink or printing errors on the packaging, and loosely packed items in the box can be signs that the product you purchased may not be legitimate,” it stated.

For apparel and handbags, consumers may tell a fake one from genuine by its poor stitching and “improperly sized or designed logos,” while counterfeit electronics often have a short battery life and regular overheating, the CBP said.

The simple rule of thumb is to remember that “if the price of a product seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

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