Hong Kong Customs seized a total of 429 boxes of skin whitening cream from a retailer and its warehouse in Hong Kong on Thursday.

The mercury content of the cream was found to exceed the permissible limit specified in the relevant safety standards, according to a government release.

Customs earlier conducted a test-buy operation on the cream from a local market for safety testing. The release did not disclose the brand name or the manufacturer.

A prohibition notice was also served on the retailer cum importer, prohibiting the continued sale of the creams.

Customs reminds traders to comply with the requirements of the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance and the public not to buy or use whitening cream of unknown composition or obtained from doubtful sources.

The Department of Health said chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, deterioration of memory, difficulty in concentration, impaired hearing and vision, and change in the taste function. In severe cases, renal failure may occur.