Trading Standards warn against unsafe skin products and unlicenced medicines

Hackney Council is advising residents to steer clear of unlicenced medicines as they are potential health risk and illegal skin lightening products as they contain dangerous banned substances that are harmful to the skin.

During a visit to Obaako, 118 Ridley Road, earlier this year Trading Standards officers confiscated illegal prescription drugs including Penicillin, Ampicillin and Amoxicillin. Skin lightening products Caro Light, Skin Light and Rapid Clair were also confiscated.

It is illegal to sell prescription drugs like the ones seized without a licence. Prescription drugs purchased over the counter without medical advice or a prescription can be a health risk and consumers are warned not to buy them.

Hackney Council has sent a list of all the items seized from the premises to Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. The agency will bring criminal prosecutions against suspects involved in illegal activities concerning medicines. Penalties directly available to the MHRA are contained within The Human Medicines Regulations 2012 and those found guilty of a breach can receive a 2 year prison sentence (maximum) and/or an unlimited fine.

 Tests carried out recently found that the skin lightening products contained a dangerous banned substance, hydroquinone. Since 2001, it has been illegal for the substance to be available in cosmetic products sold over the counter because of the serious side-effects it can cause.

Short-term symptoms include extremely itchy skin and skin burning, which often leads to significant scarring. Long-term use damages internal organs and can result in liver and kidney failure.

Hydroquinone and works by suppressing the skin's production of melanin. Melanin is a skin pigment (the substance that gives the skin its colour). Preventing the natural production of melanin means the skin has much less protection from the sun and ultra violet light, which increases the risk of skin cancer and causes premature ageing of the skin.

When buying skin creams, members of the public are advised that for their safety they should check the labels to ensure it does not contain hydroquinone, and that the product displays the address details of the importers who have brought them into the EU

 Cllr Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods said: "Hackney council trading standards officers were successful in seizing the illegal products in this instance. However it's very worrying that illegal prescription drugs and dangerous products are being sold as beauty treatments, when the health risks are so serious. Traders need to understand that it is illegal to sell these products and if they continue they will face prosecution for breaking the law and putting people's health at risk."

All of the illegal products found during the visit in January were confiscated. On this occasion Hackney Council will be taking no further action other than to monitor and regularly visit the shop.

Consumers are advised to carefully check the ingredients in cosmetic products carefully before purchasing. For further information contact Hackney Council’s Trading Standards on 0208 356 4929 or