Saturday, June 22, 2024

Online sale of fraudulent products containing mercury persists, watchdog says

The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has deplored the continued sale by online merchants of unauthorized cosmetics contaminated with mercury, a perilous chemical banned in cosmetics such as skin lightening products.

“Despite being flagged for fraudulent sales, the unabated trade in online shopping platforms of unauthorized skin lightening products known to contain mercury continues as if selling such health-damaging whiteners is not a fraudulent act,” said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator at EcoWaste Coalition.

The group said among the unauthorized products sold online are Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream from Pakistan, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned in 2017 for containing mercury above the permissible limit of one part per million (ppm).

On June 5, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) secretary Alfredo Pascual gave “two big e-commerce platforms” 72 hours to explain the occurrence of fraudulent sales that online consumers are complaining about and “to remove unregistered and unlicensed online merchants.”

While the names of the “two big e-commerce platforms” were not revealed, it is public knowledge that Lazada and Shopee are the biggest online shopping sites in the country.

“I assure Filipino consumers that we are here to promote and protect their welfare and make sure that these sellers will be made accountable. As we promote the use of e-commerce platforms, we want to make sure that these spaces will be safe for consumers,” Pascual added.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited Pascual’s assurance to uphold the rights of online consumers and to make those who disrespect these rights liable.

“To make online shopping safe for consumers, e-commerce platforms must ensure that only safe products are listed and sold by local and foreign sellers,” added Lucero. 

“Health products such as cosmetics with no valid certificates of product notification have no place in legitimate online business.”

“While online shopping giants disallow the use of their platforms to sell prohibited products such as those banned by the FDA for lacking market authorization and/or for containing mercury, banned products are easily obtainable online,” she observed.

“Skin whiteners containing mercury are hazardous to health, and are illegal to manufacture, export or import in line with the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” she pointed out.

The FDA has repeatedly warned that the use of unauthorized cosmetics may pose health risks to consumers, warning such products may be adulterated with banned or restricted ingredients or contaminants like mercury.

“The use of substandard and possibly adulterated cosmetic products may result in adverse reactions including, but not limited to, skin irritation, itchiness, anaphylactic shock and organ failure,” the FDA warned.

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