WASHINGTON Lawn product company Scotts Miracle-Gro Co will pay $12.5 million in criminal fines and civil penalties for illegally including insecticides in bird food products and for other violations, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday.
The company pleaded guilty in February to charges that it violated the federal law governing the use of pesticides.
The sentence imposed in federal court in Columbus, Ohio, includes a $4 million criminal fine, the Justice Department said. Separately, the company agreed to pay more than $6 million in civil penalties to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and spend $2 million on environmental projects.
The two penalties are the largest in the history of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, the Justice Department said. The law has existed since 1947.
"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, the U.S. assistant attorney general for environmental matters, in a statement.
Scotts, based in Marysville, Ohio, said in a statement on its website that the conduct was not consistent with its values.
"As we reach closure on these issues, it's important for all of our stakeholders to know that we have learned a lot from these events and that new people and processes have been put in place to prevent them from happening again," Scotts Chief Executive Jim Hagedorn said in the statement.
The company sold illegally treated bird food for two years before it voluntarily recalled the products in March 2008, prosecutors said. It treated the food to try to protect it from insect infestations during storage, but the pesticides it used were toxic to birds and barred by the EPA.
The company also submitted false documents to the EPA and to state agencies in an attempt to deceive them, prosecutors said.
The case is USA v. The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, No. 2:12-cr-00024.
(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)