Food and Drugs Department hard-pressed to halt import of mercury-laden beauty products

Stakeholders in Guyana’s multi-million dollar cosmetics industry may have noted the recent disclosure by the Ministry of Health’s Food and Drugs Department (FDD) regarding the presence in skin lighteners and other beauty products of potentially harmful levels of mercury, but are not prepared to go public on an issue which Head of the FDD Marilyn Collins says we have every reason to worry about.

The growth of the industry is driven by the growing preoccupation among Guyanese women with looking good. There is an extensive list of skin-lightening products which continue to be imported and sold openly on the local market and one of the busier high street retailers accepts that it is a matter of importers and distributors taking advantage of weak monitoring mechanisms. “Apart from that, cosmetics are among the fastest selling imports in Guyana these days. There is money to be made in retailing beauty products,” the retailer said.

Collins admits that the proliferation of potentially harmful beauty products is, in large measure, a function of official monitoring deficiencies. Long before the department issued its most recent statement on the mercury in beauty products, she had been making the point, publicly and on more than one occasion to this newspaper about her department’s inability to monitor the entry of drugs, foods and cosmetics and its reliance on the Customs and Trade Administration to help fill the gap arising out of its chronic staffing deficiency. In effect, the FDD is powerless to staunch the flow of mercury-laden beauty products into Guyana.

Over time, the focus of the FDD has been on monitoring the importation of harmful foods and medicines though now, according to Collins, a case exists for keeping a more watchful eye of the beauty industry.

The local FDD’s statement came just days after the United States Federal Drug Agency (USFDA) announced that it had found mercury in many products that were being marketed as cosmetics or beauty enhancing creams, lotions, antiseptics or soaps.

Earlier this month, federal health officials warned consumers not to use skin creams, beauty and antiseptic soaps, or lotions that might contain mercury. The USFDA warned that even though these products might be promoted as cosmetics, they may be unapproved under the law.

No such strictures exist here and products known to contain levels of mercury and banned in the United States are sold freely over the counter here.

Local health officials say they have long been aware of the problem of mercury in beauty products and blame the absence of monitoring and inspection systems for the proliferation of the products. One of the country’s leading dermatologists told Stabroek Business that he attends to up to five patients a day with health issues that have to do with the application of ‘fade’ creams.  “The challenge here is that most of these creams are sold openly over the counter and in many cases some of the labels do not list all of the ingredients. The other problem has to do with people with skin issues who would simply go the pharmacy, buy a cream and use it,” the doctor said.

Some importers engage the Food and Drugs Department after they have secured their imports from the local port of entry though Collins concedes that the majority of such imports escapes inspection although the department is equipped to undertake such tests.

Latest in Business

Guyana Metal Recyclers Association President Michael Benjamin

Metal exporters want urgent presidential intervention

– business ministry working on new procedures Piqued over what it says has been the suspension—without either notice or official notification—of the scrap metal trade by the APNU+AFC administration since June last year, the Guyana Metal Recyclers Association (GMRA) the official umbrella body for local exporters has told the Stabroek Business that the protracted inability of businesses to ply their trade is wreaking havoc with the industry and denying legitimate businessmen the right to earn a living.

The Far Rockaway Hotel

Kwakwani $$$M hotel investment seeks to breathe new life into community

Gavin August may well be unique in the extent of his financial investment in Kwakwani: an estimated $50 million to create a 12-room hotel, which he hopes will pay him back down the road, when the fortunes of the community change.

default placeholder

Does crowdfunding have the power to grow Caribbean economies? (Part 2)

By A Cecile Watson   A Cecile Watson is the founder of pitchandchoose.com. She is a former senior regional banker, an international speaker, a certified financial education instructor and the Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Ambassador Regional Leader for the Caribbean.

20160624gold prices June24

Kitco Market

Gold Prices for the three day period ending Thursday  June 23, 2016Kitco is a Canadian company that buys and sells precious metals such as gold, copper and silver.

IDB Chief Economist Jose Juan Ruiz

Caribbean facing savings crisis – IDB

A new study released earlier this month by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has put countries in Latin America and the Caribbean on notice that they are confronted with a savings crisis that might do damage to their economies in the years ahead.

20160624pricesjune24

Prices Prepared by the Guyana Marketing Corporation

(Prepared by the Guyana Marketing Corporation and published by Stabroek Business as a public service)*Prices only represent the average Wholesale Farmgate and Retail Prices at the above mentioned markets and are NOT prices set by the Guyana Marketing Corporation or Ministry of Agriculture.

Aunty Picky

Placing a premium on education: Annandale businesses support growth of secondary school

As the story goes, the name Annandale is said to honour the two daughters of the proprietor of the tract of land to which the name was given.

Talks underway: The respective delegations from the Guyana Public Service Union and the Government of Guyana face each other on Wednesday at the start of what could be the country’s most important industrial relations encounter since the Armstrong Arbitration Commission.

GPSU, gov’t pay hike talks opening ‘a transformational moment’ – Yarde

The Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) is treating the current public service wages and salaries negotiations with the Government of Guyana as “the start of a process aimed at bettering the lot of public servants in a manner that goes way beyond the monetary benefits which we expect will derive from the process,” its President Patrick Yarde has said.

Comments

About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: