Illegal cosmetics not isolated to developing markets as UK batch is found

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cosmetics

Illegal cosmetics not isolated to developing markets as UK batch is found
Illegal cosmetics finding their way into developing markets is not uncommon, but the recent discovery of batches by UK authorities may have blown open the issue of monitoring practices in Europe.

The news came as consumer watchdog Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards discovered dozens of shops selling skin lightening creams and colour cosmetics containing banned substances such as lead, mercury or barium peroxide.

Birmingham Trading Standards has prosecuted several businesses in the last three years "after some customers have been left with swollen eyes and burnt scalps from the cosmetics."

Could be coming from Asian markets

Adam O’Donnell of the Birmingham-based watchdog reveals that unsafe cosmetics are not just a problem for developing markets where there are differing regulations/ monitoring practices; it is an ongoing problem that his UK team are continually working to crack down on.

There is a particular problem with banned items being imported from Asia and the Middle East that are being sold in stores targeting Asian and black customers. The products are banned in Europe, but continue to be used by rogue manufacturers and sold to a market of mainly Asian women here​.”

Expert says it IS an ongoing issue in the UK

O'Donnell says his team targeted 36 shops back in 2011, whereby wholesalers and importers in Birmingham mainly serving African-Caribbean and Asian communities were found to be stocking cosmetics without the correct labels, of which 19 had poisonous stock which was seized and the traders faced legal action.

While last September experts at Staffordshire County Laboratory & Scientific Services tested eight counterfeit designer make-up products bought online after they found an influx in dermatologists reporting women with skin conditions, such as acne and psoriasis, triggered by the use of counterfeit make-up.

The products tested included those with ripped off labels from MAC to Benefit, all of which the scientists say contained a cocktail of potentially harmful ingredients including lead, copper, mercury and arsenic.

Counterfeit versions of designer make-up are flooding the market.They’re widely available online, with sellers buying in stock from Chinese wholesalers or shady middlemen in the UK.​"

EC implementation of horizontal community legislation

According to the Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 November 2009, the European cosmetics sector is one of the industrial activities affected by counterfeiting, which may increase risks to human health and member States should pay particular attention to the implementation of horizontal Community legislation and measures. 

"In-market controls also represent a powerful means of identifying products that do not comply with the requirements of this Regulation​."

EU cosmetic regulation was also updated last year and specifies that particular protocols must be followed during safety assessments of cosmetic products and toxicology qualification is also mandatory.

All products and their raw materials have to be disclosed on an EU database to ensure consumer safety. This means that in the case of an adverse event where a cosmetic ingredient may be affecting the consumer this can be sufficiently dealt with.

And any adverse reactions will also have to be reported to the relevant country’s authorities where this information can then be made public, further ensuring safety.

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