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The Consumer Show

The Consumer Show

Teeth Whitening

RTÉ's The Consumer Show has found a number of consumer outlets illegally selling teeth whitening products. The outlets include Irish websites and a Dublin based tanning shop. Kathriona Devereux bought the teeth whitening products including Whizzer Whitening Strips (containing 6% hydrogen peroxide) and various Crest teeth whitening products (containing between 9-14% hydrogen peroxide) as part of an investigation into the illegal availability of these products in Ireland.

While the manufacture and sale of these strips is legal outside of Europe, the EU has restricted doses containing a concentration of hyrdrogen peroxide in excess of 0.1% and up to 6% to qualified dentists with concentrations greater than that outlawed completely. An EU Cosmetics Directive (Directive 2011/84/EU) on hydrogen peroxide was transposed into Irish law on 31st October 2012. The law stipulates that:

  • Consumers may only be sold teeth whitening products containing a limit of 0.1% hydrogen peroxide (i.e. over the counter)
  • Products containing more than 0.1% and up to 6% hydrogen peroxide can only be administered by a dentist, or under a dentist's direct supervision.
  • Tooth whitening is restricted to those aged 18 years of age and over.

When the Consumer Show contacted the businesses that were offering these products for sale, they all said they were not aware that they were in breach of the law and immediately removed the products from sale.

The manufacturers of both Crest and Whizzer teeth whitening strips told The Consumer Show they are complying with the new EU Regulations. Proctor & Gamble, who manufacture Crest teeth whitening strips, pointed out that the laws about teeth whitening strips and hydrogen peroxide levels vary from country to country. They said they comply with national regulations in all countries, including the US and within the EU.

The Irish Medicines Board - whose responsibility it is to police the sale of these products - is now investigating the findings of The Consumer Show.

A spokesperson from the IMB said:
"The products obtained by the RTE Consumer Show are subject to an on-going investigation by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB). In the course of the investigation the IMB confirms that all firms/ websites where these products were sourced have been contacted."

They added:
"This surveillance activity will continue on the Irish market with appropriate market action being taken as required to protect Irish consumers, which can include prosecution in persistent non-compliance cases."

Statement from Irish Medicines Board
"The products obtained by the RTE Consumer Show are subject to an ongoing investigation by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB). In the course of the investigation the IMB confirms that all firms/ websites where these products were sourced have been contacted.

Since the Tooth Whitening Directive has been introduced, the IMB can confirm that it has conducted an extensive market surveillance programme which has resulted in the investigation of 26 different Tooth Whitening products to date.

  • 25% of these products breach the legislation and so can no longer be sold in Ireland, these include strips, gels and liquid pens.
  • 25% were prevented from entering the Irish market place via internet sales as the recipient could not be confirmed as a Dental Practitioner.
  • 12% were found to comply with the legislation and the remaining 38% of investigations are ongoing.

The IMB highlights to consumers that cosmetic products can legitimately be sold through a vast number of avenues, including the internet, however it urges consumers to report any cosmetic products that they have concerns about to the IMB.

Statement from Proctor & Gamble
"Tooth whitening products are classified as cosmetic products under Annex III, Part I of the Cosmetics Directive, 76/768/EEC. Only tooth whitening products with less than 0.1% hydrogen peroxide may be legally sold directly to consumers in the European Union.

A recent amendment to the Cosmetics Directive increased the maximum level of peroxide permitted in cosmetic tooth bleaching products from 0.1% to 6% provided strict controls were met for their availability. These controls are that products containing more than 0.1%, but less than 6%, hydrogen peroxide

  • May only be sold to registered dental practitioners for use on their patients
  • For each cycle of use, first use must be by a dental practitioner; or under their direct supervision, if an equivalent level of safety is ensured. Afterwards the products can be provided to the patient to complete the cycle of use.
  • May not be used on patients under 18 years of age

Finally, all tooth whitening products with hydrogen peroxide levels higher than 6% are banned in the European Union.

Regulations surrounding tooth whitening products vary between countries and regions in the world. All Crest whitening strip products are safe for use and marketed by P&G in the US under compliance with their national regulations. As a Company we always operate within the laws set and given the legal restrictions we do not sell these products in Western Europe. It is possible that such products may be obtained via e-commerce by 3rd parties and sold in the EU, an activity which we do not condone."

Statement from Whizzer Whitening Strips
"Whizzer Whitening Strips are no longer for sale in Ireland so would not be an option unfortunately. All product has been taken off shelves to comply with new a regulation that came into effect in October 2012. We have been cooperating with the IMB directions in relation to this directive. Prior to this directive this product was sold throughout Europe.

Whizzer Whitening Strips were sold as medical device and were certified by our notified body TÜV Rheinland LGA Products GmbH. The strips contained approximately 6% of Hydrogen Peroxide. "

Statement from Tanzone
"As per our phone conversation I wasn't aware of any directive and am totally taken aback to be honest. So all stock has been immediately removed for sale both from the store and the website. We unreservedly apologise, we genuinely had no idea as Crest is a trusted brand name, I assumed it wasn't in breach of any laws.

Many thanks for informing us. You can see that all Crest products have been removed from sale here www.tanzone.ie"

Statement from Beautyboutique.ie
"Thank you for the recent correspondence regarding the sale of WHIZZER Whitening Strips. As one of Ireland's foremost online beauty stores we work closely with our suppliers to ensure we have a suitable range of brands and products for our customers at all times.

The notification of the restrictions on the sale of WHIZZER Whitening Strips was unexpected and had not been previously known to our company until receipt of your communication on Friday, 29th March 2013.

We removed all relevant items from sale with immediate effect. We have also contacted our suppliers seeking full information and clarification on the availability of these products and await their response."

Statement from Beautymatters.ie
"We wish to acknowledge the receipt of your correspondence on the morning of the 2nd April 2013. We were not aware of any directive changes but have temporarialy removed all Crest products from the site while we investigate the matter further."

Statement from Inhealth.ie
"InHealth discontinued whizzer strips last year in anticipation of the new legislation. We misunderstood that the whizzer strips formula had been adjusted not to include any hydrogen peroxide and had relisted the item in error. We were concerned to learn from The Consumer Show that the product still contained hydrogen peroxide above 0.1% and have subsequently removed the item for sale. We are now reviewing our procedures to prevent similar situations occurring in the future .We would like to confirm that all other teeth whitening products available from Inhealth comply with the current legislation and would like to offer our customers who purchased whizzer strips since October 2012 a full refund and encourage our customers to contact us for further advice on this matter."

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