26th October 2018

Illegal skin whitening pair fined

London Trading Standards’ campaign against illegal skin lightening products has seen further success this month, with two more prosecutions.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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Two businesses have been successfully prosecuted by Bromley and Southwark Council after prohibited ingredients were found in products they were selling. In Southwark, eBay trader Munir Ahmad appeared at Camberwell Green Magistrates and pleaded guilty to offences relating to skin lighteners that were found to contain mercury as well as a host of labelling offences relating to cosmetic products found in his Leicester store.

A lay bench passed down a significant 40 week custodial sentence which was suspended for 24 months. In addition to this, Ahmad will have to complete 100 hours unpaid work and pay full prosecution costs of £7,185.

The court heard that Southwark’s Trading Standards team had conducted covert test purchases of skin lightener creams in July and December 2017 and March 2018 as part of a National Trading Standards funded project that Southwark led on behalf of London Trading Standards.

Two of these items they bought, ‘Arena Gold Fairness Cream for Men’ and ‘Golden Pearl Beauty Cream’, were found to contain the highly toxic metal Mercury, and all failed with regard to safety labelling requirements.  The products originated from Pakistan and should not have been available in the UK or EU.

The Golden Pearl Cream was found to be listed incorrectly in order to try and get around a block that ebay had placed on selling the items following requests by Southwark to block a number of products as part of the project.

Test purchases

The test purchases were followed up by an inspection of the trader’s premises carried out by a team from Southwark in partnership with Leicester City Council and a safety expert from Barking & Dagenham Trading Standards. It was found that Ahmad had stopped dealing in skin lighteners but still had over 1,500 eye liner and lipstick products which had been imported from Pakistan without any safety checks. These were seized due to safety labelling breaches.

In Bromley, Ghulam Mustafa, Director of Woolwich Sabina Hair and Cosmetics Ltd, pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to two offences relating to selling skin lighteners containing hydroquinone and 17 labelling offences.

Fines of £9,120 and a victim surcharge of £170, were imposed as well as an order to pay the council’s costs of £4,063.

The offences came to light in February and March 2018 following visits by Bromley trading standards officers working on the London wide trading standards project to tackling the distribution and sale of illegal skin lighteners. During the visits a quantity of cosmetics were seized as it was believed they contained the banned substance, or were incorrectly labelled in breach of the regulations.