N, April 17, 2020 (AFP) - The US Justice Department on Friday moved to halt sales of a chemical agent marketed by a self-described church group in Florida as a "miracle" coronavirus cure.
The department filed a complaint early in the day against the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, and several of its key members, for their promotion of "Miracle Mineral Solution" (MMS).
A federal judge in Florida quickly granted a temporary injunction halting its sale and distribution.
The church had claimed MMS would help "cure, mitigate, treat, or prevent coronavirus, which includes COVID-19, as well as other diseases including Alzheimer's, autism, brain cancer, HIV/AIDS, and multiple sclerosis," the Justice Department said in a statement.
"MMS is a chemical product which, when combined with the included activator, creates a powerful bleach product," the department said.
The US Food and Drug Administration had warned years ago that the product could cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and symptoms of severe dehydration.
Authorities issued a final warning to Genesis on April 8, but so far, the group has refused to stop selling MMS, primarily through its websites.
In a statement, Genesis said: "They are attacking a Church Sacrament. This is something that is 'sacred' or 'holy' to us as a Church."
"The Genesis II Church of Healing has continued to actively place consumers at risk by peddling potentially dangerous and unapproved chlorine dioxide products," FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement.
"We will not stand for this."
The United States has set up specialized units tasked with combating fraud linked to the coronavirus pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 35,000 lives nationwide.