An Irish website selling a weight loss aid that may have been sold in the United States has been closed.

The website was marketing capsules containing 200 milligrams of 2,4-Dinitrophenol (DNP) using an address that implied the substance may be used for weight loss. DNP is a yellow powder, often put into tablets before being sold as a fat loss aid. It is an industrial chemical that is not intended for human consumption. An investigation by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and other state agencies led to capsules containing DNP being seized.

A closure order was served under European Union official controls regulation on the now inactive website based in the town of Clonmel in County Tipperary. A recall was issued in Ireland on all batch codes and best before dates of weight loss pills from the website or associated social media sites.

Distribution includes the United States, Chile, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland, according to the RASFF portal. The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) is also involved.

Link to deaths
Pamela Byrne, FSAI chief executive, said she was particularly concerned about the marketing and selling of DNP.

Irish DNP recall

“There are serious health risks from taking slimming products purchased online which are not linked to a registered food business and we are urging consumers to remain very cautious and to only buy from established food businesses,” she said.

“Following an investigation, a closure order was served on a food business marketing and selling 2,4-Dinitrophenol which is a highly toxic industrial chemical which has been abused as a fat burner to achieve rapid weight loss. It is illegal for DNP to be sold for use as a weight loss product and it is not allowed in food. Its use has serious and unpredictable side effects, including death.”

There was a recorded death in Ireland in 2015. The United Kingdom is responsible for almost all of the 144 alerts for DNP in RASFF. It is marketed as a weight loss aid and has been linked to 32 deaths since 2007 in the UK.

The National Food Crime Unit is involved in preventing the illegal sale of DNP. Two deaths linked to DNP toxicity were noted between January and September 2020 after four fatalities in 2019. NFCU efforts have led to removal or suspension of at least 95 websites and 350 marketplace listings.

DNP soon to be a regulated poison?
A study published this past year in the journal Clinical Toxicology found more than 200 cases of DNP toxicity reported to poisons centers in the United States and the UK from 2007 to 2018.

This included 86 in America and 118 from the UK, of which 86 percent were under the age of 40 and 71 percent were males. Research found annual case numbers have increased in both countries since 2011.

The Home Office, the UK government department responsible for security, law and order, is planning to consult this year on adding DNP to the list of regulated poisons.

This would mean it could only be sold legitimately to the public by a registered pharmacist with a license issued by the Home Office.

Gino Martini, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s (RPS) chief scientist, said the group has raised awareness of the dangers of DNP for years.

“DNP is an industrial chemical, unfit for human consumption and individuals who sell it as a weight loss aid have already caused far too many deaths, harm and heartache for families across the country. Their only aim is to exploit and profit from people with weight loss issues,” Martini said.

Martini added RPS welcomed the government’s recognition of the threat of supply via online marketplaces and hopes it takes steps to delist DNP products rather than wait for legislative change.

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