Hong Kong Customs today (January 20) urged members of the public to stop using two types of whitening cream products containing excessive mercury.
Customs earlier received information alleging that two suspected unsafe whitening cream products were being supplied in the market. Test results revealed that the levels of mercury in these two products were as high as 22 000 parts per million and 21 000 parts per million respectively. According to the relevant hygienic standard of the cosmetic, the mercury content of the whitening creams exceeded the maximum permitted limit by 22 000 and 21 000 times respectively, suspected to be in contravention of the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance (CGSO).
Moreover, Customs also found that the packages of two whitening cream products only bore warnings or cautions in English, without any Chinese warnings or cautions, in contravention of the Consumer Goods Safety Regulation (CGSR), a subsidiary legislation of the CGSO.
In response to the above report, Customs immediately conducted an enforcement operation and seized 81 boxes of the two whitening cream products from a retailer in Central. A 52-year-old female director was arrested and has been released on bail pending 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.
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 and CGSR 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. Under the CGSR, where consumer goods or their packages are marked with warnings or cautions with respect to their safe keeping, use, consumption or disposal, such warnings or cautions shall be in both English and Chinese languages and such warning or caution phrases must be legibly and conspicuously shown on the goods, any package of the goods, a label securely affixed to the package or a document enclosed in the package. 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 and CGSR. Law enforcement action will be taken immediately if any violation of the CGSO and CGSR 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).