The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is to file a lawsuit against clothing firm VF Corporation, for making "unsubstantiated" claims about antimicrobial footwear sold under The North Face brand.

It has alleged that VF sold and distributed unregistered pesticides through the company's The North Face brand.

The suit relates to more than 70 styles of footwear that incorporated an 'Agion' silver treated footbed, the EPA said, which make "unsubstantiated claims that the footwear would prevent disease-causing bacteria".

The EPA said VF could face nearly US$1m in federal fines following the claims.

Since being contacted by the EPA, The North Face has stopped making claims that the footwear protects against germs and revised packaging.

The EPA said it was a violation of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act.

"The EPA takes very seriously its responsibility to enforce against companies that sell products with unsubstantiated antimicrobial properties," said Katherine Taylor, associate director of the communities and ecosystems division in EPA's Pacific Southwest region.

"Unverified public health claims can lead people to believe they are protected from disease-causing organisms when, in fact, they may not be."

The North Face told just-style that the ETA claims are based on descriptions it made online and on hang tags between January 2008 and March 2008.

Steve Rendle, president of The North Face and VF Corporation's Outdoor Americas coalition, said: "The EPA has not made any claims that The North Face products are unsafe or contain any unsafe substances.

"Although we dispute their assertions, when we were contacted by EPA regarding their concerns in March 2008, we immediately stopped making the claims they found objectionable, removed them from hang tags and our website, and revised the product packaging accordingly.

"The case currently pending is about marketing verbiage accompanying the products and what can be claimed. The product itself remains the same and utilises the same pesticide, registered with the EPA, as intended for safe use in footwear."