What The EPA’s Threats Against Amazon Could Mean for Your Brand

August 14, 2021

When Amazon places restrictions on a listing – or on an entire category – sellers rightfully get nervous. If that category is loosely defined, the restrictions can spill over into non-offending products and accounts. The result can go beyond lost sales for legitimate sellers. It can mean weeks or months spent trying to correct a mistaken restriction. At worst, a non-offending product may be permanently restricted or removed from the marketplace. 

What is the Current Issue with Potential Pesticide-Related Products?

We are currently seeing widespread listing removals as a result of potential pesticide-related violations on Amazon. Why is this happening?

For the third time in three years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ordered Amazon to stop selling illegal pesticides on its marketplace. The EPA notes that certain chemicals found in pesticides pose “a significant and immediate health risk to consumers, children, pets, and others exposed to the products.”

EPA charged that Amazon, between 2013 and 2018, committed nearly 4,000 violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act. They accused them of allowing third-party vendors to sell and distribute pesticides and disinfectants that had not been evaluated by the EPA for safety and efficacy.

The EPA specifically identified dozens of products that are potentially dangerous or ineffective. Of note, in the age of COVID, the EPA included many products claiming to kill viruses that had never been proven to do so. 

Amazon recently responded that they have “processes in place” to “proactively block” unregistered pesticides and products making inaccurate claims before they are listed for sale.

Amazon Responds with Overzealous Bots

Amazon has two ways to identify and restrict listings – human review, and the use of computer “bots” that identify potential unregistered or rogue listings. When listings are incorrectly categorized as a potentially dangerous unregistered pesticide, the bots that help Amazon regulate their gargantuan marketplace are typically the root cause of mis-categorization. 

Though bots play a vital role in reducing the nonstop, voluminous work of reviewing product listings to confirm compliance with Amazon’s guidelines, they unfortunately run on their own, independent of the Seller Support team. The bots cannot make judgement calls but are programmed to make binary yes or no decisions based on trigger words, phrases, or contextual clues. When looking to flag potential offenders, bots often overreach and cause more harm than good.

Herein lies the concern for sellers with legitimate, EPA-registered products, or products that may not even fall into the pesticide category at all but are flagged as such. Once a listing is flagged – even if Amazon eventually determines a product is legitimate – addressing the issue and relisting the product can take weeks or even months.

How ZQUARED Helps with Overzealous Bots

Product Listings

First, ZQUARED works with our Brand Partners to develop Amazon product listings, optimized for SEO performance and a user-friendly experience. During this process, we are careful to avoid potential trigger words and phrases that may cause issues with search bots. 

In the case of the current pesticide-related mandate, we have created a list of words to avoid. While this list in not exhaustive, it does cover much of what we’ve identified as trigger words and phrases that have been flagged during this pesticide purge:

  1. Antimicrobial
  2. Antifungal
  3. Antibacterial
  4. Allergen
  5. Fungicide
  6. Disinfectant
  7. Hypoallergenic 
  8. Weed killer
  9. Insecticide
  10. Insect (and specific insect names like spider, roach, wasp, tick, etc.)
  11. Pest 
  12. Pesticide
  13. Poisonous
  14. Mold
  15. Mildew
  16. Non-poisonous
  17. Harmless
  18. Non-toxic
  19. Repel
  20. Rodent
  21. Antiseptic
  22. Germ
  23. BPA
  24. Virus
  25. Flu

While many of these words can be innocuous, or part of a verified and legitimate listing, they may be vulnerable to Amazon’s bots. To stay ahead of this issue, ZQUARED reviews brands and listings that may have potential triggers. We help rewrite those listings to retain the same potency for search queries, while being less susceptible to a potential flag.

Getting a Flagged Listing Reinstated 

Should your listing become flagged and removed from the Amazon marketplace for an inaccurately identified violation, ZQUARED has a team of experts experienced in reinstating your products. 

First, we carefully review all aspects of your listing and search for any potential keywords that may have triggered the removal. If any are identified, they are immediately removed from the listing.

Second, we contact Amazon Seller Support and request reinstatement. Amazon cases generally require 2-15 agent interaction points before we are able to reach a favorable resolution and reinstatement of the listing.

The entire process can take up to three months to resolve. For this reason, ZQUARED proactively reviews and monitors your listings for potential keywords that may flag the system. While this practice is generally effective, Amazon continuously updates their system with new phrases and keywords that they deem “flaggable.” Hence, guaranteeing a listing will never be removed is impossible.

However, our team continuously works to identify any potential threats before they become a problem. Should a listing be removed, our expertise allows us to achieve reinstatement in the most efficient way possible. 


Our company was born from a service mindset. Our passion is helping you navigate the online retail space in a way never imagined. With years of industry-leading experience selling on Amazon, we invest in brands who sell on Amazon.

Managing all aspects of the Amazon platform for your brand is a top priority. We do design, fulfillment, product listings, enhanced brand content, headline and sponsored ads and MAP violation support. Understanding all aspects of this sales channel can be overwhelming. We break down every aspect of your brand and what you will need to increase sales on Amazon.

To learn more about how ZQUARED can help you stay ahead of Amazon’s ever-changing rules, contact ZQUARED at 234-ZQUARED (978-2733), fill out our Contact Us form here, or email us at partners@zquared.com.