HSA advises against use of surgical masks made by local firm Vision Empire International

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SINGAPORE: The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has advised people to stop using surgical masks made by a local company which is being investigated for allegedly manufacturing them illegally at a facility in Ubi Crescent.

The facility, which is owned by Vision Empire International, was suspected to be manufacturing the masks without a licence from HSA, which is a requirement under the Health Products Act, the agency said in a press release on Friday (Jun 11).

HSA said it had found the allegedly illegal manufacturing and repackaging facility on May 31. It added that masks were observed to be "manufactured in an unhygienic and makeshift environment and placed in carton boxes left out in the open". 

A total of 33 cartons, containing about 2,500 masks each, were seized, it added.

Vision Empire International masks facility (2) The facility, which is owned by Vision Empire International, was suspected to be manufacturing the masks without a licence from HSA. (Photo: Health Sciences Authority)

The company is also suspected to have imported surgical masks from overseas which were then repackaged and rebranded with its packaging before reselling, when they did not have the licence to do so, HSA said. 

The manufactured and repackaged masks were sold under the brand "Vision Empire Healthcare", the authority added.

Preliminary investigations revealed that these masks were sold on local e-commerce platforms from S$10 to S$22 per box of 50. The listings have been removed with the assistance of the platform administrators, and HSA has directed the company to recall the products from the market. 

Further investigations are ongoing, said HSA.

In advising people to stop using masks from Vision Empire, HSA said masks from unlicensed facilities have not been verified to meet the appropriate standards of quality, filtration capability and breathability. 

It added that sub-standard masks may not provide the desirable level of protection to the wearer.

When CNA contacted Vision Empire Healthcare about HSA’s allegations, sales director Kelviin Tay said he was “quite surprised”. 

“I don’t think it’s true to say it’s illegal because right now, we’re working with them (HSA),” said Mr Tay. 

“There wasn't any charge or any conclusion to this,” he added.

Mr Tay said that the company had started manufacturing masks around August last year, but stopped operations in early February as production was not feasible. 

“We tried to get it to work but it's not easy, we didn't produce mass volume,” he said.

“We (did) have the licence to import and also to export at that point in time, what HSA’s view with us (then) was that they wanted to make sure that (our masks) were compliant,” he claimed.

Mr Tay said the company had sent its masks for testing and had sent lab results on their bacterial filtration efficiency to HSA.

The company had also stopped sales at the end of May, under HSA’s instructions. 

Further investigations are ongoing, said HSA. 

HSA said it will take strong enforcement action against those who engage in the illegal manufacture and/or supply of masks. Anyone who illegally manufactures and/or supplies such masks is liable to prosecution and, if convicted, may be imprisoned for up to 2 years, fined up to $50,000, or both.