The Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has, with immediate effect, banned the importation and use of hydroquinone in the country.
“The FDA wishes to remind the public that hydroquinone ceases to be part of ingredients permitted in cosmetic products on the Ghanaian market with immediate effect,” the Chief Executive Officer of the authority, Mrs Delese Mimi Darko, told the Daily Graphic in an interview in Accra Monday.
She explained that the directive followed the standard set by the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) on hydroquinone which required that cosmetic products should be free of the product.
Hydroquinone cream is a bleaching cosmetic used to reduce the appearance of age spots, freckles and other skin discolorisation.
It works by reducing the amount of pigment created in the skin, which makes it look lighter.
Additionally, the indiscriminate and extensive use of cosmetics containing hydroquinone can lead to the thinning of the skin, poor wound healing, the development of permanent stretch marks, excessive sweating, bad odour, among others.
Mrs Darko said the FDA had already informed importers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers that cosmetic products containing hydroquinone were not to be sold on the Ghanaian market.
“The FDA, therefore, expects the Ghanaian market to be free of cosmetics containing hydroquinone and so anyone found selling such products will be sanctioned, in accordance with the law,” she said.
Giving a background to the ban, she said some few years ago, the FDA gave a permissible level of two per cent hydroquinone in cosmetics as a transition to the implementation of the zero per cent in skin care cosmetic products.
“And two years ago, the FDA, in complying with the standard set by the GSA, declared that the importation of hydroquinone into the country had been banned,” she said.
She explained that since then, the authority had stopped giving permits to importers to bring in cosmetic products containing the chemical, while those that were already in the market were allowed to finish.
Mrs Darko further explained that the grace period of two years given to all dealers, importers and distributors ended on January 31, 2017, adding that from now, the product was not supposed to be on any shelf in the market.
She said during the grace period, the FDA embarked on sensitisation programmes through discussions, fora and public announcements, all aimed at educating the public, especially importers, dealers and distributors of the product.
Monitoring and surveillance
She said the FDA also mounted continuous monitoring of the ports of entry and seized and detained all cosmetic products with indication of hydroquinone as part of their ingredients on the product labels.
She announced that the authority, through its post-market surveillance activity, was sampling cosmetic products on the market without hydroquinone, as their labels claimed, but suspected to contain the chemical.
“This is applicable especially to cosmetic products recommended for skin whitening, lightening, brightening, toning, among others. We pick them up for screening and verification testing at the FDA’s Quality Control Laboratory,” Mrs Darko added.
She appealed to the public to provide information on persons found selling those products or any activities that were likely to endanger public health and safety with respect to the FDA’s mandate.
She assured the public of the FDA’s continuous resolve to protect public health and safety at all times.