A Hayes shopkeeper has been fined £1,260 after selling an illegal skin lightening cream he told trading standard officers he thought was a harmless moisturiser.
Jean Bitulu, owner of John Foods in Hayes Shopping Centre was sentenced at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on 24 May, after admitting seven counts of breaching the Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations 2013.
The court was told trading standards officers visited Hayes Shopping Centre on 7 October 2020, where several shops were found to be selling illegal skin lightening cosmetics. They noted a particularly large quantity for sale in John Foods.
This resulted in the seizure of 331 products containing the banned harmful hydroquinone.
A further 657 products containing steroids and medicines were also seized. Those items were sent to the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency which confirmed that the products were unlicensed for supply in the UK.
Anything with hydroquinone, mercury or steroids is illegal as they can carry serious side effects. These ingredients can cause long-term health problems such as kidney and liver damage, as well as increased risk of skin diseases.
On 7 July 2021 another inspection at John Foods uncovered a further 12 products containing hydroquinone, along with other products which lacked the required labelling. These were also seized.
In mitigation, Bitulu’s solicitor told the court that despite being a British citizen, the defendant – who had no prior convictions – was unable to read or write English very well and believed the skin lightening products to be a moisturising cream.
Cllr Eddie Lavery, Hillingdon Council’s Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services, said: “This is a brilliant result for our trading standards team, which works tirelessly in the borough to keep residents safe.
“A large amount of potentially harmful cosmetics has been removed from our streets and I hope this result serves as a warning that we won’t allow local businesses to profit by selling products which could cause harm to others and will always take the strongest possible course of action.”
Bitulu was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £126 and a contribution towards the council’s prosecution costs of £2,000.
A forfeiture and destruction order was made for the seized items.
If you know of any information about skin lightening creams being sold in your area, please click on the reporting link which can be found here.