Jun 29, 2022
California fines Florida company $2 million for mislabeling product

California regulators that oversee the state’s organic standards has fined a Florida company almost $2 million for labeling and selling a product containing synthetic herbicides as an organic product.

The $1.89 million fine, announced June 28 by the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Fertilizing Materials Inspection Program and the California State Organic Program, concerns the “adulteration and mislabeling” of Agro Gold WS. Sorrento, Florida-based Agro Research International LLC makes the product, which California regulators found contained diquat and glyphosate, which are synthetic herbicides.

CDFA served a “Notice of Penalty and Adverse Determination” to Marc Lajeunesse, Agro Research International president and CEO. The notice identified 378 counts of adulteration and mislabeling violations of Agro Gold WS. The notice requires an additional payment of $92,312.13 to reimburse California agencies for investigative costs.

CDFA initiated an investigation into Agro Gold WS — distributed within a box co-packaged with organic herbicide Weed Slayer — in August 2020. The product was registered with CDFA as a “biological amendment” organic input material and was required to adhere to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program standards for organic food and crop production. CDFA’s investigation analyzed 16 unique lots of Agro Gold WS. All laboratory analyses indicated unequivocal confirmation of adulteration with diquat and glyphosate at significant levels.

Unique samples later analyzed by four other states’ departments of agriculture concurred with CDFA’s results.

In December 2020, CDFA’s Fertilizing Materials Inspection Program, ordered a statewide quarantine and removal of the product from the market. On the same day, CDFA’s State Organic Program executed a statewide stop use order for Agro Gold WS.

Sale and use of this product poses a public health risk because the synthetic herbicides were not disclosed on its label, according to the CDFA. Anyone in possession of Agro Gold WS who wants to dispose it must submit a disposal plan to the CDFA.

Growers who have this quarantined product are not allowed to move it or sell it.

California, Washington and Oregon in December 2020 ordered a stop on the use and sale of Agro Gold WS. Idaho regulators were investigating the product as well.


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