Initial figures from a national product safety group project in Scotland, focusing on Methylisothiazolinone (MI) in cosmetics, have raised concerns and prompted Trading Standards in Scotland to issue a warning to consumers buying cosmetics, particularly products intended to be given as gifts.

MI is a preservative with well-publicised concerns over links to sensitisation and skin allergy issues. Since February 2017 it has been banned from ‘leave on’ cosmetics such as face cream, hair gel and wet wipes.

Early figures released ahead of the full results being published highlight that in one local authority, 60% of premises visited were found to have non-compliant stock, and over 380 products were removed from sale, including 225 items which were withdrawn due to the presence of MI. Provisional figures indicated 71 different product lines examined were found to contain MI and it is thought this number will rise as more results are received.

Other products were removed due to presence of a banned skin lightener and others for incorrect or incomplete labelling, which the Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland (SCOTSS) are concerned may indicate a lack of a proper safety assessment having been carried out on the products.

Paul Bannister, lead officer for consumer product safety at SCOTSS, said:

“Imported cosmetics can contain ingredients which, although legal elsewhere in the world, are prohibited by European safety legislation. As retailers source, and consumers purchase, via a global market we must ensure that products for UK consumers remain safe.”

Although MI is still permitted in ‘rinse off’ products such as shampoo and shower gel, new legislation comes into place in January 2018 - with retailers allowed to sell remaining stock until 27 April 2018 - which reduces the maximum allowed concentration levels significantly.

Tina Patel, a lawyer in Leigh Day’s consumer law and product safety team, said:

“The early figures coming out of this research are undoubtedly concerning, with the current legislation having been in effect since early 2017. Manufacturers of products which are to be sold in the UK must ensure they are not putting consumers at risk by manufacturing products in breach of the legislation.

“It is reassuring that Trading Standards in Scotland have carried out this proactive investigation and shows what a vital role Trading Standards has in protecting consumers.

“We have represented a number of people who have suffered serious burns and allergic reactions due to the presence of MI in cosmetic products, a chemical which is only present to extend the shelf-life of the product. We of course welcome the new legislation due to come into effect from 27 January 2018 and hope that the presence of MI in everyday cosmetics will continue to be reviewed.”