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Hong Kong Customs urges public to stop using one type of disinfectant alcohol with suspected false description on composition and toxic methanol (with photo)
     Hong Kong Customs today (March 20) searched a hardware store and seized two bottles of disinfectant alcohol with suspected false descriptions of composition and toxic methanol content. A director of the store and a salesperson of the supplier of the product concerned were arrested. This is the third time in less than a month that Customs has seized disinfectant alcohol with suspected false descriptions of composition and methanol following cases last month and early this month. Customs appeals to members of the public to stop using the disinfectant alcohol concerned. Traders should also remove the product from their shelves.

     Customs earlier received information alleging the sale of disinfectant alcohol with suspected false descriptions of composition at a hardware store in Yuen Long. Customs officers were then deployed for immediate action to test-purchase a type of disinfectant alcohol labelled as containing "75% ethanol". The product was put on sale in white plastic bottles labelled as holding 5 litres and was sold at $300 per bottle. Samples were sent to the Government Laboratory to establish its composition and safety.

     On March 18, Customs received the test results, which revealed that the disinfectant alcohol concerned had ethanol content of 73 per cent and methanol content of 1.6 per cent. The test also revealed that the net volume of the bottle of disinfectant alcohol was only 4,482 millilitres.

     The composition and the volume of the disinfectant alcohol were different from the product descriptions according to the test results. It also contained toxic methanol. The product was therefore suspected to be in contravention of the Trade Descriptions Ordinance (TDO) and the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance (CGSO).

     Noting the test results, Customs conducted immediate enforcement action today and searched the hardware store, seizing two bottles of disinfectant alcohol with suspected false descriptions of composition. A 55-year-old male director of the store and a 46-year-old saleswoman of the supplier were arrested. Customs officers also inspected a total of 120 retail spots in various districts today and no such product was found for sale.

     Customs will further examine the seized disinfectant alcohol product to establish its safety.

     Investigation is ongoing.

     Customs reminds members of the public to observe the following safety tips when purchasing disinfectant alcohol:
  • Pay attention to the product descriptions shown on labels, including the manufacturing date and the validity period;
  • Avoid choosing disinfectant alcohol with unknown sources and limited information; and
  • Purchase products from recognised brands at reputable shops.

     This action was part of the "Guardian" operation, which had been running for 53 days as of yesterday (March 19) since its launch on January 27. More than 3 400 officers have been mobilised to conduct over 23 000 inspections at retail spots in various districts to ensure that common protective items sold in the market comply with the TDO and the CGSO.

     The "Guardian" operation will continue and Customs will carry on stepping up enforcement action to combat activities in violation of the relevant ordinances. The department will continue to make prompt public updates if irregularities are detected.

     Customs reminds traders again not to take advantage of the current situation and not to sell products with false trade descriptions, and not to sell unsafe consumer goods. Immediate law enforcement action will be taken against the contravention of relevant ordinances and prosecutions will be made with sufficient evidence.

     Under the TDO, any person who supplies goods with a false trade description in the course of trade or business, or is in possession of any goods for sale with a false trade description, commits an offence. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for five years.

     Under the CGSO, it is an offence to import, manufacture or supply consumer goods unless the goods comply with the general safety requirements for consumer goods. The maximum penalty upon conviction is a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for one year on first conviction, and $500,000 and imprisonment for two years on a subsequent conviction.

     Members of the public may report any suspected violation of the TDO or the CGSO to Customs' 24-hour hotline 2545 6182 or its dedicated crime-reporting email account (crimereport@customs.gov.hk).
Ends/Friday, March 20, 2020
Issued at HKT 19:20
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