CINCINNATI–- In late-October, Cincinnati U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigation special agents and FDA consumer safety officers conducted a special operation focused on misbranded contact lenses. Contact lenses are regulated commodities in the United States. These misbranded lenses violate FDA laws and could prove dangerous or ineffective. The purpose of this enhanced enforcement was to identify and intercept illegal contact lenses being imported into the United States.
CBP and FDA Officers found a total of 26,477 pairs of undeclared or mis declared decorative contact lenses. The prohibited contact lenses originated primarily from Hong Kong and Japan and were destined to addresses across the entire United States. The cumulative Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) for the prohibited lenses were $479,082 had they been legally imported.
“Counterfeit products, such as these contact lenses, can contain toxic substances that can impact the public’s eyesight,” said LaFonda Sutton-Burke, Director, Field Office-Chicago. “Counterfeiters have no moral compass and will counterfeit just about anything to make a buck. We have encountered counterfeit makeup, perfumes, toys, clothing, electronics, machinery parts, basically, anything in demand we’ve seen it. The movement of these goods into online marketplaces pose a significant risk to the American consumer.”
“When purchasing contact lenses from online sources, consumers should be aware of the dangers associated with buying unregulated commodities,” said Cincinnati Port Director Richard Gillespie. “Not only are they dangerous to your health and well-being, but often fund criminal enterprises one way or another. Our officers and agriculture specialists enforce laws for many partner agencies to stop illegal shipments from getting to consumers.”
“Consumers’ vision is put at risk when contact lenses that may not meet FDA standards reach the U.S. marketplace,” said Catherine Hermsen, Assistant Commissioner, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations. “We will investigate and hold accountable those who endanger the public health.” Refer to Buying Contact Lenses | FDA for more information.
Although most people buy decorative contact lenses to be used as accessories for Halloween costumes and the performing arts, the FDA emphasizes that all contact lenses are medical devices that require a valid prescription from a licensed optometrist and are not legally sold over the counter. If consumers suspect a vendor is illegally selling contacts or other medical products, they can report it to the FDA.