Company made more than £3m from selling kits that damaged teeth and gums
Two men have been jailed in the UK after selling teeth-whitening kits containing dangerously high levels of hydrogen peroxide.
Father and son team John and Matthew Hargreaves made £3.4m selling teeth whitening kits at shopping centres and consumer shows across the UK for eight years.
The pair were jailed for 18 months after a three-year-long investigation led by Trading Standards dubbed Operation Gleam.
Tooth whitening is the practice of dentistry and only registered dental professionals can legally and safely provide such treatment.” — Katie Spears, Acting Head of Illegal Practice at the General Dental Council
The defendants first attracted the attention of their local council at the Royal Welsh Show.
Trading Standards officers attended the event and become suspicious of claims made by the Hargreave's company including: “Ideal for any age group” and “used by leading dentists throughout the UK and Europe”.
After purchasing and testing a kit, the officers found that the whitening kits contained 11% hydrogen peroxide – 110 times higher than the legal limit for consumer-use products.
Tooth whitening products containing 0.1-6% hydrogen peroxide are banned from direct-to-consumer products and should only be available through a registered dental professional.
Products containing more than 6% hydrogen peroxide or higher are not permitted for cosmetic use in the UK.
A nationwide investigation led by Powys Council found that the pair had traded at 150 venues in the UK, including shows at Earls Court in London while also trading online.
The family formed more than 20 companies to hide their activities and evade tax. More than 30 victims were identified in the investigation, with one hospitalised and prescribed morphine.Mother and wife Jean Hargreaves also joined the operation, but was spared jail with a suspended sentence. John and Matthew Hargreaves were disqualified from directing a company for ten years, while Jean was banned for five.
Katie Spears, Acting Head of Illegal Practice at the General Dental Council (GDC), said: “The GDC continue to work hard to proactively spread the message that tooth whitening is the practice of dentistry and that only registered dental professionals can legally and safely provide such treatment.”
John Powell, Cabinet Member for Trading Standards, added: “We cannot have unsafe products being brought into Powys which could harm our citizens or visitors, particularly as the Royal Welsh Show is our premier event.”
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