Imagine rushing to buy surgical masks amid the pandemic frenzy, and finally securing a supply that would last some time.
Good for you, because having a mask would mean having an additional layer of protection, right?
Turns out, the masks you bought were illegally manufactured—they might not even have met the required standards of the authorities.
There goes your protection, as well as the $10 you spent on the box of masks.
Vision Empire International Pte Ltd Investigated for Manufacturing Masks Illegally
On Friday (11 June), the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) announced in a press release that a local company was currently under investigation for the suspected manufacturing of surgical masks in Singapore without a licence.
The company is the first to be suspected of such an action. Under the Health Products Act, obtaining a licence from the HSA is a requirement for firms to manufacture surgical masks.
According to the HSA’s press release, the illegal mask manufacturing was discovered on 31 May. The manufacturing took place at a facility in Ubi Crescent owned by the company, Vision Empire International Pte Ltd.
HSA said that the manufacturing was observed to have taken place in an unhygienic and makeshift environment within the facility, with the masks placed in carton boxes that were left out in the open.
The HSA seized a total of 33 cartons, each containing about 2,500 masks.
Those charged with illegally manufacturing or supplying masks can be sentenced up to two years’ jail, or fined up to $50,000, or both.
Illegal Reselling of Imported Masks From Overseas
On top of illegally manufacturing surgical masks, Vision Empire International Pte Ltd was also suspected of importing masks from overseas, before repackaging and rebranding with the company’s packaging. The masks were then resold under the brand Vision Empire Healthcare.
This was done despite the company not having a licence to do so.
According to the HSA, preliminary investigations have revealed that the masks were sold on local e-commerce platforms at the price of $10 to $22 per box of 50 masks.
With assistance from the administrators of these e-commerce platforms, the listings have since been removed. The company has also been ordered by the HSA to recall all products from the market.
HSA’s Advice to Consumers
HSA has issued an advisory notice for consumers who have purchased masks from the brand Vision Empire Healthcare, advising consumers to stop using the masks immediately.
It explained that manufacturers and repackagers of surgical masks are licensed by the HSA to ensure that the masks are of good quality and safe for use. This includes being manufactured in proper and hygienic conditions that commonly with ISO 13485 manufacturing standards.
Surgical masks which have been produced by unlicensed companies have not been verified by the HSA to meet the required standards of quality, filtration capability and breathability, added the HSA.
HSA also pointed out that “Sub-standard masks may not provide the desirable level of protection to the wearer.”
“Masks manufactured, repackaged and/or stored under unsanitary conditions may potentially be contaminated or exposed to undesirable impurities from the environment,” added the HSA. It warned of an increased risk of developing skin irritation, respiratory symptoms or infections.
You might also want to watch this video to the end on why it’s important to wear a mask:
Featured Image: HSA