Warning on bad cosmetics labelling

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 August, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 August, 2004, 12:00am

Consumer Council says sale of expired goods poses a health and beauty risk to women

Inconsistent labelling of cosmetic goods is putting the health and beauty of Hongkongers and international visitors at risk, the Consumer Council warned yesterday.

The council said the level of information on the durability - storage instructions, how long it will last once opened, when it was made, what its use-by date is - of cosmetic products varied greatly from brand to brand.

It called on manufacturers to improve the clarity of their labelling 'for the safety and protection of consumers'.

'The information should disclose the date of manufacture, the expiry date and the period of time that a product can be used, after opening, without any harm to the consumer,' council publicity and community relations chairman Matthew Ng said.

Cosmetics manufacturers or traders are not required to display durability information on their products.

A quick survey by the South China Morning Post of about 30 products in a local supermarket found significant disparities between brands in the level of information available.

Mr Ng said some cosmetics which were beyond their use-by date could contain harmful bacteria. There was also a potential for secondary contamination if people introduced germs to their cosmetics with unclean hands. 'If the consumer uses the product on their face, the bacteria could cause contamination of the skin or eyes.'

He stressed that proper labelling could only enhance Hong Kong's reputation. 'Consumers from abroad are aware of their consumer rights, and they would like this information. This would generate a positive image for the traders and a positive image for Hong Kong.'

Dermatologist George Ng said it was important for manufacturers to provide consumers with complete product information.

'I think it is desirable for all these products to be labelled appropriately and the date of expiration to be displayed clearly,' he said.

'Some products may become toxic after their date of expiry ... and the weather in Hong Kong is very extreme. Some products made in Europe or the United States are not designed for our climate.'

A spokeswoman for the Hong Kong-based Paua Group, which runs a number of spas and beauty centres, said it was important people used products as instructed.

'Products are meant to be bought and used, and not accumulated in the bathroom,' she said. 'Natural products will have a higher spoilage rate than ones with preservatives and other chemicals.'

She said specialist cosmetic retailers could provide good advice.