A skincare product that was being sold on multiple online platforms including Lazada and Qoo10, has been found to contain extremely high levels of mercury, according to Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on 22 May.

The HSA was alerted by the Consumers Association of Singapore (CASE), warning members of the public to stop buying and using ‘Royal Expert Whitening Cream’ immediately.

In a statement, CASE said it had found 3,604 μg/g of mercury in the product, which was much higher than the permissible level (less than 1μg/g) - more than 3,000 times the legal amount.

Upon the alert, HSA followed up and further tested several samples bought from various online platforms to find the cream positive for high mercury levels.

Mercury is a toxic substance that is prohibited for use as an ingredient in cosmetic products as regular application of the substance could lead to rash, skin discolouration and blotching. Chronic exposure to high levels of mercury in cosmetic products may also affect the kidneys and nervous system in severe cases.

'Royal Expert' brand cannot be distributed in Singapore, unlike Malaysia

OEW Group, which owns the brand has said that dealers were not allowed to distribute it in Singapore. But at least two local Facebook pages were found to advertise products by Royal Expert. Calls to the administrators' numbers were unanswered.

The cream is advertised to have skin whitening and anti-wrinkle effects, priced between S$50 and S$79. It is however, allowed to be distributed in Malaysia but not allowed to use third-party e-commerce platforms.

The group said: “This is not a new issue as there (have) been many counterfeit and imitation Royal Expert products in the market, and we have taken all the necessary steps to curtail this issue.”

It added that it is working with HSA to resolve these problems and protect its customers' interests.

A HSA spokesman said that in October last year, a company notified the HSA of its intention to sell Royal Expert products here, but warned that notification did not mean approval and testing is required before the product is made available to the market.

"Under current regulations, companies or individuals who manufacture, import and sell cosmetic products are directly responsible for the safety of their products," the spokesman said.

Consumers reminded to take caution when purchasing online

Consumers who have purchased or are using the product are advised to stop using and discard them immediately. If adverse effects are experienced following its use, members of the public are advised to see a doctor immediately.

The HSA has reminded the public to take caution when purchasing cosmetic products, especially those purchased from online sources.

Unlike other commodities, the use of poor quality and falsely labelled health products including cosmetics can cause serious health effects. Therefore, they should always be purchased from reliable and reputable sources.

All web administrators of online platforms have been directed to remove all listings of the product from the websites as the HSA says, “it is their responsibility to ensure that the cosmetic products they are selling are safe and comply with Singapore’s regulatory requirements such as the absence of prohibited substances.”

Both Lazada and Qoo10 have taken down listings of the product.

The agency warned that anyone found selling 'Royal Expert Whitening Cream' will be prosecuted, and if convicted, may be imprisoned for up to three years and/or fined up to S$100,000. MIMS

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