Interpol issued an alert over dinitrophenol (DNP) at the request of the French government, after a French man fell seriously ill after taking the supplement, prompting the UAE Ministry of Health to warn authorities and consumers across the country. Originally used to make explosives during the First World War, DNP has been banned from human consumption for many decades, but is still used in other capacities.
DNP use growing
Despite the ban, DNP remains popular as an extreme weight-loss aid, thanks to its destructive effects on the human metabolism. A UK report released in 2014 revealed DNP use had soared in recent years, with many vendors selling the drug through the internet.
“Dr Amin Al Amiri, assistant undersecretary for public health polices and licensing at the MoH noted that some individuals run after using dietary supplements, beauty products without caring about their potential risks to their health. Most of these products, including DNP, are unlicensed in the UAE and other countries,” said a statement from the UAE ministry.
The UAE has been cracking down on fake, poor-quality or dangerous dietary supplements over the last few months, warning consumers about 190 counterfeit weight-loss products, along with hundreds more body building and virility supplements, in April.
Earlier this month, it banned Body Bentonite Unique Healing Powder, which has been reported to contain high levels of undeclared metals. Last November UAE authorities removed from sale products including Royale Chocolate, Royale Jelly, the dietary supplement Zyrexin, and a range of products marketed under the “Herbal Health” brand.
Banned drugs still available
Al Amiri cited World Health Organisation figures suggesting 90% of drugs and supplements sold online were fake. He said that while most of the people and organisations promoting banned supplements were outside the UAE, some had representatives within the country.
Two years ago, UAE daily The National uncovered health shops selling banned weight loss supplement Oxy Elite Pro under the counter. The pill, which contained DMAA, had been banned in the US and parts of Europe, and voluntarily withdrawn and destroyed by its manufacturer, after it was linked to cardiovascular problems and at least one death.
Despite this, reporters were able to find shops in Dubai that were willing to sell Oxy Elite Pro when asked for the product by name. An employee of the – unnamed – outlet said the drug was safe, but had been banned because people used it incorrectly.