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New measures needed to protect users from mislabelled cosmetics, research finds

national September 18, 2018 20:15

By THE NATION

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WITH OVER 600,000 cosmetic products registered by Thailand, some operators have adopted the illegal practice of obtaining multiple registration numbers for their products and having them manufactured by other facilities, the industry regulator has revealed.



As a result, consumers sometimes purchase products whose ingredients and manufacturing location differ from what is on the label.

The practice is a criminal offence, says expert pharmacist Chatchai Panichsupphaporn of the Cosmetics and Hazardous Substances Control Bureau at Thailand’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Violators were not afraid of the law because the usual penalty involved minimum fines, he said in a presentation of his research titled “The Crisis of Illegal Cosmetic Products and a Solution via Administrative Measures”.

This inaccuracy in labelling also has become the largest source of complaints filed with the FDA during 2015-2018 as it compromised users’ safety, Chatchai told the Public Health Ministry’s 2018 academic conference. 

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In addition to fines, the FDA has relied on administrative measures, including a ban on manufacturing and distribution, a revocation of registration numbers and the recall of products accompanied by a public announcement, he said. 

But those measures resulted in the violator immediately reapplying for registration numbers via an online system, he added, prompting the FDA to ban the brand name of the already-revoked product.

Chatchai said the Thai cosmetic market is worth Bt200 billion, made up of a Bt120-billion domestic market and Bt80 billion in exports, along with an annual growth rate of 10 per cent.

The agency supervises cosmetics via the product registration as set out in an Asean-wide agreement, the Harmonised Cosmetic Regulatory Scheme. 

As of April, Thailand had registered the most cosmetic products among Asean |countries at 685,009 items followed by Malaysia at 185,580 and Singapore at 172,606. 

Given the sheer volume of cosmetics in the marketplace, Chatchai noted that consumers faced health risks when the stated ingredients, manufacturing facility and methodology may not reflect those declared to the authority when the product was granted its registration numbers.

The study found that 230 complaints had been filed with the FDA over cosmetics in the fiscal year 2015, 225 in 2016, and 262 in 2017 with 64 per cent related to the products, 27 per cent concerning product advertisements and nearly 9 per cent about the manufacturing facilities. 

Among the complaints about products, 42 per cent were for inaccurate labelling of product packaging, 26 per cent claimed that certain products were unsafe and 17 per cent reported that products had not obtained or displayed the required registration numbers. 10 per cent of complaints reported counterfeit cosmetic products and nearly 4 per cent said the products did not fulfil the advertised quality or properties.

Many illegal products were also the cause of repeat complaints, Chatchai added.

The research has been helping the FDA to set clearer guidelines to help identify illegal cosmetics and to institute administrative measures against the violators under the Cosmetics Act 2015, he added. 

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