A U.S. federal court in Ohio has fined Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. $4 million for illegally adding insecticides to several of its wild bird food products. The company will also pay $6 million in civil penalties to the Environmental Protection Agency and $2 million on environmental projects.
Scotts pleaded guilty to criminal charges of violating federal pesticide law in February. This is the largest criminal penalty under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. Scotts also pleaded guilty to falsifying documents to the EPA and other regulatory agencies.
"Scotts has a special obligation to make certain that it observes the laws" because it is the world's largest marketer of residential-use pesticides, said Ignacia Moreno, U.S. assistant attorney general for environmental matters, in a statement.
Scotts admitted to using pesticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II to its bird food products, despite an EPA ban on such use. The company said that they included the pesticides in the feed despite warning labels with the dangers of the chemicals in order to protect the bird food during storage.
Scotts Miracle-Gro Chairman and CEO Jim Hagedorn released an open letter on the issue Sept. 7, stating that the affected products did not harm consumers or the environment. Hagedorn said that a former Scotts employee acted alone and that no one else in the company knew about the illegal activities.
“Nevertheless, while the investigation concluded that no one else in the company knew about these illegal activities, these were actions by one of our associates and, ultimately, the company bears the responsibility for her actions,” he wrote. “We recognize this and we apologize.”
Scotts continued to sell the treated bird food for two years after it began marketing its bird seed, and six months after employees submitted concerns about the pesticides. By the time the company voluntarily recalled the products in March 2008, more than 70 million units had been sold.