Hong Kong Customs urges public to stop using two types of unsafe whitening cream products (with photos)

3 Nov 2022

Hong Kong Customs today (November 3) urged members of the public to stop using two types of whitening cream products containing excessive mercury.

Customs earlier received from a relevant department a referral of two mercury poisoning cases involving two patients using the two whitening cream products. Test results revealed that the level of mercury in one of the products was 21 213 parts per million. According to the relevant hygienic standard of the cosmetic, the mercury content of the whitening cream exceeded the maximum permitted limit by 21 213 times, in contravention of the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance (CGSO).

Moreover, Customs also found that the two products only bore warnings or cautions in English without any Chinese warnings or cautions, suspected to be in contravention of the Consumer Goods Safety Regulation, a subsidiary legislation of the CGSO.

Customs subsequently conducted an enforcement operation and deployed officers to four retailers concerned in Central and Tsuen Wan to carry out an investigation today. Twelve boxes of the two whitening cream products were seized from one of the retailers. A 54-year-old woman-in-charge was arrested and is now being detained for further investigation.

An investigation is ongoing and the likelihood of further arrests is not ruled out.

A prohibition notice was served on the retailer connected with the case, prohibiting the continued sale of the two whitening cream products. Customs will arrange testing for the whitening cream products.

Apart from searching the retailer connected with the case, Customs officers also conducted spot checks and inspections in various districts and have found no sales of the two products concerned so far.

According to medical advice, chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, memory deterioration, concentration difficulty, impaired hearing and vision, and a change in the taste function. In severe cases, renal failure may occur.

Customs reminds members of the public to observe the following tips when purchasing and using beauty products:

Customs reminds employers that they should get their foreign domestic helpers' attention to stop using the two products concerned immediately if they found that the helpers had purchased the products.

Customs also reminds traders to comply with the statutory requirements of the CGSO to protect the safety of consumers. Under the CGSO, it is an offence to supply, manufacture or import into Hong Kong consumer goods unless the goods comply with the general safety requirements for consumer goods. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for one year on first conviction, and $500,000 and imprisonment for two years on a subsequent conviction.

Customs has been combating consistently the sale of products that fall short of the CGSO. Law enforcement action will be taken immediately if any violation of the CGSO is detected.

Members of the public with information relating to unsafe consumer goods may make a report via Customs' 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 or its dedicated crime-reporting email account (crimereport@customs.gov.hk).

Ends/Thursday, November 3, 2022

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