A HAYES shopkeeper has been fined £1,260 after selling an illegal skin-lightening cream which he told trading standard officers he thought was a harmless moisturiser.

Jean Bitulu, owner of John Foods in Hayes Shopping Centre, was sentenced at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court after admitting seven counts of breaching the Cosmetic Products Enforcement Regulations.

Officers visited Hayes Shopping Centre, where several shops were found to be selling the cosmetics. They noted a particularly large quantity for sale in John Foods.

This resulted in the seizure of 331 products containing the harmful banned hydroquinone.

A further 657 products containing steroids and medicines were also seized.

Those were sent for tests, which confirmed the products were unlicensed for supply in the UK.

Hydroquinone can cause long-term health problems such as kidney and liver damage, as well as increased risk of skin diseases.

Bitulu’s solicitor told the court that, despite being a British citizen, the defendant – who had no prior convictions - was unable to read or write English very well and believed the products to be a moisturising cream.

Cllr Eddie Lavery, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services in Hillingdon, said: “This is a brilliant result for our trading standards team, which works tirelessly in the borough to keep residents safe.”

Bitulu was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £126 and a contribution towards the council’s prosecution costs of £2,000.