In the latest example of the Health Sciences Authority's ("HSA") firm stance against unsafe health products, the HSA has initiated a recall of 18 cosmetic products which were found to contain potent undeclared ingredients, including mercury, hydroquinone and tretinoin. Apart from taking action against physical retail outlets, the HSA has also directed administrators of online sales platforms to remove web listings of the affected products.

The recall comes off the back of HSA's regular product quality surveillance activities, which involve random sampling and testing of health products marketed locally.

Under the Health Products Act, it is an offence to supply unwholesome health products, which definition includes cosmetic products that:

(a) contain substances listed in Part I of the Third Schedule (which include mercury and tretinoin) unless the presence of such substance is in trace amounts or is technically unavoidable in good manufacturing practice; or

(b) contain substances listed in Part II of the Third Schedule (which includes hydroquinone), in excess of permissible limits prescribed in the Schedule.

The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to S$50,000 (about USD 38,000) or to imprisonment for term not exceeding 2 years or to both.

The HSA actively cracks down on errant retailers in both the offline and online spheres, and this case affirms their wide discretionary powers of enforcement. More information can be found in the HSA's press release here.