News item

Trading Standards target dangerous imports

Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards Service is working with the UK Border Force to prevent the importation of illegal and dangerous products, including cancer causing cosmetics, at the Parcelforce International Postal Hub, located at Coventry Airport, Bagington.

Warwickshire Trading Standards was awarded funding by the National Trading Standards Board to carry out this important work, protecting consumers, not just in Warwickshire, but across the UK. 

All parcels carried by Royal Mail and weighing between 2 kg - 30 kg, arriving in the UK from the rest of the world by air or by ship are transported to the Coventry Hub before being placed onto a conveyor system and screened by the UK Border Force for compliance with UK/EU legislation.

Trading Standards Officers were tasked with working with UK Border Force Officers to identify parcels that might contain dangerous or illegal products. Intelligence had already indicated that the highest number of products that constituted a safety risk were cosmetics and Trading Standards Officers therefore concentrated on identifying these products. 

The inspections carried out by Trading Standards Officers were very successful and many illegal cosmetics were seized, with skin lightening creams containing hydroquinone being a particular problem. Hydroquinone is a known cancer causing ingredient found in some skin lightening cosmetic products. It is banned in the EU. 

Cllr Les Caborn, Warwickshire County Council’s portfolio holder for community safety, said: “This project is an excellent example of how Trading Standards has formed a very successful working relationship with the UK Border Force to stop large amounts of illegal and dangerous products reaching the shop shelves and putting the health of consumers at risk.”

Warwickshire County Councillor Richard Chattaway, Chair of the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee, added: I am delighted that our Trading Standards Service has demonstrated that it has the skills and expertise to carry out this important work on behalf of Trading Standards Services nationally.” 

Lord Toby Harris, Chair, National Trading Standards, said:

“Protecting consumers from unsafe products is a priority for National Trading Standards. That’s why we are funding this important work so that it is as difficult as possible for harmful, unsafe products to be available on the high street.”

“This project represents a step-change in how we tackle the illegal import of dangerous goods into this country and I am delighted to see that it is already delivering positive results.”

Parcels were X-rayed and officers inspected over 200 in total. One-third of parcels inspected contained dangerous products. Almost 1,400 dangerous items were seized. Many of these parcels had originated in Africa. 

When dangerous cosmetics were found and detained, Officers contacted the importer to notify them that their goods would be destroyed. Importers were offered the opportunity to sign over the goods and avoid liability for any costs for storage and disposal. In almost all cases importers signed over their products. Other illegal products discovered, including drugs and medicines were passed to UK Border Force Officers to deal with.

A number of importers thanked Warwickshire Trading Standards for preventing the importation of their goods. They had not realised that their imports were illegal and dangerous.

Additional funding has now been secured to carry out further work.


For more information please contact: Simon Cripwell, Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Officer: (01926) 414039 or 07771 975570. 

For more general enquiries regarding the National Trading Standards Board please call 020 7025 7570 or e-mail 

Notes to editors

National Trading Standards Board

  • The National Trading Standards Board is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board has been set up by the Government as part of changes to the consumer protection landscape and an enhanced role for trading standards. 
  • The National Trading Standards Board provides leadership influence, support and resources to help combat consumer and business detriment locally, regionally and nationally.
 DATE: 24 July 2014