Singapore supplements crackdown: Thousands of online listings removed, illegal products seized

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Thousands of online listings have been removed and illegal health products seized during the recent enforcement operation. ©Getty Images
Thousands of online listings have been removed and illegal health products seized during the recent enforcement operation. ©Getty Images

Related tags Singapore Supplements e-commerce enforcement Adulteration Safety

Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA), together with INTERPOL, removed 4,681 listings from local e-commerce and social media platforms, and seized 60,372 units of prohibited health products as part of an enforcement operation.

The intensified surveillance was part of Operation Pangea, an enforcement action coordinated by INTERPOL between October 3 and 10.

Eighty-nine countries participated in this year’s Operation.

The listings taken down from local e-commerce and social media platforms included sexual enhancement or male vitality products (30%), products for aesthetic enhancement such as dermal fillers, Botox, sutures and placenta injectables (14%), contraceptives (8%), topical creams or ointments for skin allergy (8%), and weight loss products (8%).

In a press release on October 31, the HSA stated that it also worked with local enforcement agencies during the week of heightened enforcement to seize various illegal and adulterated health products, including sexual enhancement products, sedatives, herbal supplements, and pain management products.

“These illegal products were sold online or detected at the checkpoints, and have not been evaluated and/or approved by HSA. They may also be adulterated with potent medicinal ingredients. As such, there is no assurance of their safety, quality and efficacy.

“Additionally, some of these products should only be prescribed by doctors for their patients, or administered only by qualified medical practitioners. If not used or administered correctly, they can lead to serious adverse events,” ​the HSA said.

Multi-faceted approach

In its statement, HSA highlighted that activities on local e-commerce and social media platforms, such as Instagram and Telegram, are monitored throughout the year.

The national authority acts on feedback from the public as well as partners with administrators of these platforms, who conduct their own pre-emptive screening measures, to stop illegal health products from getting listed and educate sellers on the regulatory controls for health products.

“HSA continues to work closely with other local enforcement agencies to stop imports of illegal health products from entering Singapore. On a global level, HSA exchanges information with overseas regulatory counterparts and INTERPOL, and conducts joint operations to tackle the unauthorised sale of such products.”

At the same time, consumers are advised to exercise caution when buying products such as health supplements and cosmetics online. It is recommended to purchase them from reputable retailers’ websites or those with an established retail presence.

“The products may be cheaper and appear to offer better value, but the lower price could be due to unsafe or inferior ingredients, poor manufacturing methods, and substandard or unhygienic storage conditions. They could also be adulterated with harmful or banned ingredients, such as steroids.

“Be wary of health products that promise quick and miraculous results, or carry exaggerated claims like ‘100% safe’, ‘no side effects’, ‘quick effects’ or ‘scientifically proven’. They may contain potent ingredients that harm your health. Online product reviews are not trustworthy, as these testimonials usually cannot be verified.”

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