THE scores of Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) involved in this “backyard industry” are not only mixing the lethal concoctions together that will eventually be sold to unsuspecting consumers, they also provide sellers with ingenious ways of cheating the system and duping health authorities.
While many subscribe to good manufacturing practices (GMP) and are endorsed by the authorities, there are some unscrupulous ones who label themselves as GMP-compliant, but who throw all safeguards out the window to earn more profit.
The New Straits Times Special Probes Team went undercover to check the practices of OEMs, including those promoting their services on social media. From their testimonials, they claim to supply to scores of entrepreneurs in the small-medium scale beauty industry.
In one Facebook thread, where an NST team member posed as a would-be cosmetics entrepreneur looking to produce a face-whitening cream, the OEM promises to help its customers get into the business of becoming “millionaires”.
It seems to bluntly say that it “could make anything happen”.
The team member was told that he was free to put anything in his formula, even mercury, which is banned in cosmetics.
This toxic metal gives the appearance of lighter skin, or what the current marketing catchphrase refers to as putih dinding (alabaster white).
The OEM promised to throw in free packaging if the team member opted for a RM1,000 package, which consists of 100 tubs of the poisonous concoction weighing 10g each.
“But can we get past the Health Ministry’s ‘notification’ (of sale) process?” the team member asked.
This “notification” is a housekeeping process under the Asean Cosmetic Directive to record what is being sold in the market and for post-market surveillance.
“The thing is, the ingredient glutathione cannot appear on the packaging if you want to avoid problems with the Health Ministry. We will just state the approved ingredients on the labels.
“By the way, we will handle the ‘notification’ process for you for RM2,000 if you order 1,000 units,” said the company’s handler on its Facebook page, which has garnered 12,129 likes.
The OEM promises that the stock would be delivered to our doorstep as soon as payment is made.
Another OEM that agreed to produce the same harmful formula said it will revert after a discussion with its “researchers”.
Killer cosmetics from abroad
Those bringing in cosmetics to Malaysia from overseas must know their products well, as they, too, have to put them through the ministry’s “notification” process.
The authorities have, however, acceded to the fact that they are grappling with those selling products whose safety is suspect.
We engaged several of them, including those sought after for their injectable concoctions. We sent the products for analysis, only to discover thousands of people are injecting arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead directly into their veins. We delved deeper into this growing business, posing as a customer.
“How safe is your product? I am a diabetic, can I use it? And how do I inject this?” a team member asked a local Facebook entrepreneur.
“Don’t worry, it is 100 per cent safe. You can refer to the testimonials.
“When I deliver the package once payment is made, I will give you a list of nurses and doctors who can administer the injection.”
A two-month supply of the injectable whitening product came less than a week after the team banked in RM210 into her account.
It came complete with a three-page list of healthcare practitioners as promised.
As the law holds entrepreneurs who signed the Health Ministry’s “notification” process accountable for their products, those who violate the “declaration” of ingredients in the “Product Information File” will usually blame the OEMs.
Even if they cite “ignorance” of their OEM’s action, they will still be held responsible and must recall their products within 72 hours.
They are aware of their liabilities, which they have calculated to deal with the losses. We have yet to hear of product users suing entrepreneurs or OEMs for health conditions suffered as a result of using these products.
The entrepreneurs will use all kinds of gimmicks to hoodwink users, including putting their concoctions over a flame and saying that if mercury is present, the liquid will turn black.