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Public reminded to watch out for unsafe beauty cream

  • 2002.05.02

Members of the public are advised not to purchase beauty cream of dubious origins or from unreliable sources, and in case of any abnormal reaction, consumers should stop using the cream at once.

The Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) and the Department of Health (DH) jointly made the appeal at a press conference today (May 2) after the Government Chemist confirmed that samples of two beauty cream seized in a Customs routine monitoring operation last month (April) contained high concentrations of mercury and were hence unsafe for consumption.

In the operation, Customs officers seized 2 347 bottles of "Rosedew" cream and 41 bottles of "La Rose Blanche" cream from four locations.

The Head of the Consumer Protection and Prosecution Bureau, Mr Peter Chan Kwok-keung, said, "Testing results of the seized cream samples revealed that the mercury content of "Rosedew" cream ranged from 27 000 to 60 000 parts per million (ppm), and that of "La Rose Blanche" from 9 100 to 22 000 ppm.

"The levels exceeded the tolerable limit of mercury content of 1 ppm specified in the "Hygienic Standards for Cosmetics" of the National Standard of Peoples' Republic of China.

"Government Chemist assessed that such mercury levels would pose a high risk to users.

"Customs investigation is continuing with a view to prosecuting the parties concerned for offences of importing and supplying unsafe consumer goods under the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance," he said.

The Principal Medical & Health Officer of the Department of Health, Dr. Thomas Chung Wai-hung, said, "Persons who have been applying the cream in question on a regular basis are advised to call the DH Hotline 2961 8968 from 9am to 5pm (Monday to Friday) or from 9am to 1pm (Saturday). The Hotline will operate up to 9pm today. The Department of Health will arrange screening for mercury intoxication for those who need the test. Effective treatment is available for persons with mercury poisoning."

Dr. Chung said since mercury is gradually passed out of the body from urine and faeces, persons who have not used the cream for six months or more are unlikely to have elevated mercury levels.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning may include hand tremors, visual or hearing loss, memory deterioration, irritability, and difficulty with sleeping. Mercury can damage the kidney resulting in oedema, particularly in the ankles and legs. Mercury can also pass from the mother to the fetus resulting in impaired brain development.

Mr Chan said, "The beauty cream 'Rosedew' may be retailed in different packaging on the market. In this operation, Customs tested another two samples of 'Rosedew' from other shops and found that the mercury level was within the tolerable limit. In view of this, consumers are reminded to pay special attention to the packaging of the "Rosedew" cream in question.

Under the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance, it is an offence to supply, manufacture or import into Hong Kong consumer goods unless the goods comply with the general safety requirement for consumer goods or an approved standard applied to the goods.

The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine of $100,000 and an imprisonment for one year on first conviction, and $500,000 and two years' imprisonment on subsequent conviction.

For enquiries and complaints regarding unsafe consumer goods, consumers can write to the Consumer Protection and Prosecution Bureau, Customs and Excise Department on the 11th floor, North Point Government Offices, 333 Java Road, North Point or call the Customs hotline at 2545 6182.

Reprinted from HKSAR Government web page :