2020-09-27 12:08:11

A line of nail polish sold by the Chinese retail brand Miniso was found to contain excessive concentrations of the carcinogenic compound chloroform, domestic media reported Saturday.

The problem was discovered during quality control tests carried out by the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Supervision Administration (SFDA) on 1,000 different cosmetic products. Miniso’s peel-off nail polish was among just eight products to fail the tests.

The revelations come at an awkward time for the Guangzhou-based company, which on Wednesday filed for an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. The retailer — a major vendor of discount goods whose investors include Chinese tech giant Tencent — aims to raise up to $100 million from the listing.

In a report first published Wednesday, the SFDA stated that the Miniso product was found to contain far too much chloroform — a compound classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization — at 589.449 micrograms per gram. Under Chinese regulations, cosmetics are only allowed to contain up to 0.40 micrograms of the chemical per gram of product.

The nail polish was sold at a Miniso outlet in Shanghai’s downtown Jing’an District. The problematic product was collected for examination last year, the store’s manager told domestic media. After the spot check, Miniso asked the SFDA for a retest, claiming it had sent the product for testing by a third party and uncovered no issues. The nail polish also failed the SFDA’s second test, however.

“We don’t have that product at the store now,” the manager was quoted as saying. “We (the store) are only here to sell products. The problems must be the suppliers’ responsibility.”

The nail polish product containing high concentrations of chloroform, a carcinogenic chemical, for sale at a Miniso outlet. From Taobao

The nail polish product containing high concentrations of chloroform, a carcinogenic chemical, for sale at a Miniso outlet. From Taobao

A dollar-store-style chain with over 4,000 outlets, Miniso is often criticized for imitating the branding of Japanese retailer Muji, and has previously found itself in the spotlight for substandard products on several occasions.

In April, a Miniso-branded perfume product manufactured by a Shenzhen-based cosmetics firm failed a quality test for using an unapproved organic compound, China Economic Net reported.

Two months later, a children’s tableware product sold by Miniso was found to contain excessive levels of melamine, according to reports. Miniso soon clarified the tableware line had been taken off its shelves in 2019, and the test result only applied to products the store had carried last year.

Miniso’s affordable products are mostly produced by outside manufacturers that can therefore be held responsible for any quality issues. The Shenzhen-based company that produced the problematic perfume product, for example, was fined 8,500 yuan ($1,250) for the violation — an amount determined by the profits the firm had earned from selling the substandard goods.

Chinese authorities have yet to announce any punishment for Miniso over the latest case.

However, the company has faced fierce criticism from consumers, and a corresponding hashtag on microblogging platform Weibo had been viewed over 480 million times by Sunday evening.

“The company blames the manufacturers every time, when they themselves are hardly innocent,” one user commented under a related post. “Why can’t they do thorough inspections before putting products on the shelves?”

Editor: Dominic Morgan.

(Header image: An interior view of a Miniso outlet in Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, June 28, 2015. People Visual)