Trading Standards on the trail

Skin lightening products 2

Report from a Trading Standards Officer in South East London

“I’ve just finished reviewing another prosecution report for a hair and cosmetic shop in our area. It’s a shop that we’ve advised in the past so the management know very well what they should and should not be selling. However, despite this our mystery shopper had been able to purchase skin lightening products containing hydroquinone very easily.

After the test purchase we visited the shop and seized hundreds of products that were clearly labelled with all the banned substances we had advised them about. Some were on the shelves and some were hidden in stock rooms. Most worryingly some were products that should only be available on prescription. They are intended for short term use under medical supervision and should not be on retail sale.

The management tell us people ‘ask for the stuff all the time’ so they are reluctant to say no. They say that the customer will most likely buy other items too so they don’t want to lose that business.

I wonder if they actually stop and think about this attitude. In ignoring the laws designed to ensure consumer safety they risk a jail sentence and/or a fine of up to £20,000 per item.

Worse still this attitude shows a complete disregard for their customer’s health and well-being. Putting profit over safety will not look at all good when they face a judge in court.

To make matters worse, after our visits the shop has not mended its ways. Our mystery shopper returned, only to be sold yet another hydroquinone based product.

This is a typical scenario when it comes to dealing enforcing cosmetic safety regulations. There is demand for these illegal products that needs to be stemmed. The end-users need to consider the very real and potent dangers that pro-longed use of these products pose. Trading Standards are on the front line of ensuring only safe cosmetics are sold but our job would be a lot easier if the demand was not there in the first place.

In the meantime we in Trading Standards will do our best to make sure our retailers and web sellers are not putting their customers at risk. Authorities in London have been some of the most pro-active in the UK since hydroquinone was banned in 2001. For example in Southwark, over 30 defendants have been fined up to £72,000 in cases instigated by the Council. No doubt it will soon be 31 and rising….”

Photo shows skin lightening products with ingredients banned in the UK that were seized in Southwark.