Pharmacy sorry for selling 'racially insensitive' mask for 'whitening' skin

The director of Westbury Pharmacy, in north Bristol, said he was unaware the item was being stocked, branded the product “racially insensitive” and took the product off sale. Made by Korean company Purederm, the mask packaging claims they will change skin through a “visibly whitening, anti-aging and moisturising treatment”.

But one mum, who went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for her 10-year-old child, said: “I popped in and was waiting at the counter to collect it. I saw this box, and at first I was like, ‘Maybe I’ve misunderstood, maybe it’s for teeth or something.’

“I thought, ‘That’s just mental.’ Eventually the pharmacist came back with the prescription, and I just asked him why they were selling this stuff.

“He looked like he had not really registered that product before and didn’t know what it was. He said, ‘Oh I don’t know.’

“I told him, ‘It’s a skin whitening facial — that’s just not acceptable, you shouldn’t be selling these products in this day and age, let alone in Bristol, which is so multicultural.’

“He seemed a bit taken aback, and said, ‘Yeah I agree, I’ll speak to my boss.’ A few people in the queue behind me were like, ‘Oh God, that’s shocking.'”

The mum, who is a teacher in the area, said she had heard of skin bleaching products in the media but had never seen an item like this herself.

She added: “I don’t know if they’re sold abroad and seen as a beauty standard but in our society it’s just not acceptable. That is racist, essentially.

“Does the pharmacy not engage with the products? You enter an NHS pharmacy and it’s meant to be an area where you trust what’s on the shelf.

“It’s there for your health and you think it’s been vetted. It’s great the guy agreed with me, but you also wonder why it was on the shelf in the first place.”

Mitul Patel, the director of the pharmacy, told Bristol Live said he was unaware the £3.87 item was being stocked and called the product “appalling” and “racially insensitive”.

The supplier Fortuna Healthcare distrubuted the product.

Mr Patel, who also runs three other pharmacies in Bristol, said he would find it “insulting” if he walked into a shop which was selling the item.

The director continued: “We get our over-the-counter products from Fortuna, one of the biggest suppliers to pharmacies across the country. They’re the ones that supplied it to us without my knowledge.

“They need to answer the question of why they were selling it to pharmacies. I genuinely can’t believe they’ve supplied that to us, to be honest. I’m an Asian man myself and I find it appalling.

“Clearly we should have spotted it at our end. I don’t think our members of staff had even looked at it. We took this branch over from LloydsPharmacy a few months ago, and we had to fill up with stock because the shelves were bare.

“If you are mechanically pricing everything up and doing lots of stock, things get missed. It’s clearly a failing on our part, but it’s not a case of us trying to sell something racially insensitive. It’s a case of us not knowing.

It’s going straight off our shelves and I’ve sent an email to all the pharmacies in our group, to make sure they’re not stocking it by mistake. We’re a small company and don’t always have the mechanisms to spot these things. However, it shouldn’t have gone out.”

Fortuna Healthcare said it would withdraw the product from the market “with immediate effect pending a full review”.

Purederm, the Korean firm behind the product, has not responded to approaches for comment.

L’Oreal removed words including “white” and “light” from its skin-evening products last year.

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