A New Jersey-based testing laboratory has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges over its role in providing false test results for a purported do-it-yourself home anthrax test. Sani-Pure Food Laboratories and its partner, Ronald Schnitzer, provided test data in support of Pur-Test Anthrax Test (PTAT), the purported anthrax test kit that was the subject of the Commission's action against Vital Living Products, Inc. (Vital Living) earlier this year. The Sani-Pure test report states that it had conducted tests, using anthrax, that showed that PTAT was effective for detecting the presence of anthrax. In fact, Sani-Pure had not used anthrax in its testing. The settlement bans Sani-Pure and Schnitzer from testing to detect the presence of a biological or chemical warfare agent and from misrepresenting test results.
Vital Living started marketing PTAT in October 2001, using ads that claimed that PTAT was 95 percent effective in detecting anthrax bacteria and spores on surfaces, in the air, and in water, both at home and in the workplace. In November 2001, Vital Living retained Sani-Pure to conduct testing to validate PTAT's efficacy. According to the FTC, Sani-Pure's test report stated that it had tested PTAT's efficacy at detecting "innoculated samples of bacillus anthracis" and that the results showed PTAT to be effective. Accordingly, Vital Living released promotional materials stating that in testing using anthrax PTAT was 95 percent effective, with a false positive rate of five percent. In fact, according to the Commission, Sani-Pure's testing did not evaluate PTAT's efficacy at detecting anthrax. Instead, Sani-Pure evaluated the efficacy of the product at detecting colonies of bacillus cereus, a common environmental contaminant. According to the FTC, bacillus cereus is not an appropriate proxy for anthrax in determining the efficacy of a test that detects the presence of anthrax. In February 2002, the Commission announced that it had settled charges that Vital Living had misrepresented PTAT's efficacy.
The matter announced today charges defendants Sani-Pure and Schnitzer with misrepresenting the results of their tests of PTAT. Specifically, the complaint alleges that the defendants falsely represented that Vital Living's anthrax test kit was effective; that they conducted their testing of PTAT using anthrax; and that their test methodology reliably would demonstrate whether PTAT effectively detected anthrax. The complaint also alleges that the defendants failed to have a reasonable basis for the representations made in the test report about PTAT's efficacy. Finally, the complaint alleges that Sani-Pure and Schnitzer provided Vital Living with the means and instrumentalities to engage in deceptive acts or practices.
The settlement bans the defendants from testing to evaluate or determine the presence or absence of a biological or chemical warfare agents, or evaluating the efficacy of a product designed to detect such agents. The settlement also prohibits the defendants from misrepre-senting, or assisting others in misrepresenting, the characteristics of products they have tested and the test results; and from making representations about, or assisting others in making representations about, products they test without a reasonable basis.
The Commission vote to authorize staff to file the complaint and the proposed stipulated final order for permanent injunction was 5-0. They were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, in Newark, on September 24, 2002. Judge Katharine S. Hayden signed the final order for permanent injunction and entered it on October 4, 2002.