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LCQ18:Safety standard for the mercury content of deodorant powder

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Following is a question by the Hon Lau Chin-shek and a written reply by the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour, Mr Stephen Ip, in the Legislative Council today (October 16):

Question :

It was reported that "Goodfriend Deodorant Powder", which was manufactured and sold in Hong Kong, was found to contain high concentrations of mercury. However, there is no existing legislation prescribing the safety standard for the mercury content of deodorant powder. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it has prescribed the safety standard for the mercury content of deodorant powder and similar products;

(b) it has regularly conducted product safety tests on deodorant powder and similar products which are available on the market;

(c) deodorant powder and similar products are required to be sent to the relevant authorities for product safety tests; if not, whether consideration will be given to imposing such a requirement; and

(d)there are provisions in the existing law on the criminal liability and product liability in case a member of public falls ill after using deodorant powder or similar products with mercury content beyond the safety standard; if so, of the details?

Reply :

Madam President,

My reply to the four parts of the question is as follows -

(a) Classified as general consumer goods under the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance (the Ordinance), deodorant powder and similar products must meet the "general safety requirement" stipulated in the Ordinance when imported into, supplied or manufactured in Hong Kong. The Ordinance stipulates factors for determining whether a product complies with the "general safety requirement". These include the manner in which the product is promoted, the specifications for packaging, and the requirement to meet reasonable safety standards as promulgated by a standards institute.

The Government Chemist adopts the Chinese National Standards°–Hygiene Standards for Cosmetics (GB 7916 - 87) for testing deodorant powder and similar products. According to these standards, the mercury content of deodorant powder and similar products shall be less than one part per million (ppm). The stipulation for mercury content is the same as the standards adopted by the Food and Drug Administration of the United States.

(b) To ensure consumer products (including deodorant powder and similar products) on sale in Hong Kong meet general safety requirements, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise vigorously enforces the Ordinance, conducting spot checks and purchasing samples for testing. In 2001, the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED) conducted 1,357 spot checks and 374 investigations on consumer products (including deodorant powder and similar products). In the first nine months of 2002, 1,032 spot checks and 220 investigations were conducted on various consumer products. In respect of deodorant powder and similar products, the C&ED has recently taken a series of enforcement actions.

(c) The Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance requires all manufacturers, importers and suppliers to ensure that consumer goods (including deodorant powder and similar products) supplied by them comply with "general safety requirement". At the same time, the Customs and Excise Department also obtains samples of products from the market for testing by the Government Chemist to ensure that consumer products (including deodorant powder and similar products) on sale in Hong Kong are reasonably safe. These arrangements have been proved to be appropriate and effective. It is therefore not necessary to require compulsory tests for deodorant powder and similar product intended for sale in Hong Kong.

(d) The Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance stipulates that a person shall not supply, manufacture or import into Hong Kong any consumer goods (including deodorant powder and similar products) that do not comply with the "general safety requirement" or such safety standards as the Secretary for Economic Development and Labour may by regulation designate for that particular product. Any importer, dealer, supplier or manufacturer who contravenes the Ordinance is liable to prosecution and to a maximum fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for 1 year on first conviction; and a maximum fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for 2 years on subsequent convictions.

End/Wednesday, October 16, 2002

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