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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Dying to be thin in Singapore
Singaporean actor Pierre Png, left, and his TV presenter girlfriend Andrea De Cruz pose together in Singapore in 2001
Presenter Andrea De Cruz - a user of Slim 10 - nearly died

Singapore is in the grip of a health scare sparked by a possible link between slimming pills and liver failure, after one woman died and many others - including a high-profile TV personality - became seriously ill.

The potential risks of taking certain herbal slimming products first hit the headlines when popular television presenter Andrea de Cruz suffered liver failure - a condition her doctors said may have been caused by the use of a diet pill.

A Singaporean woman walks past a poster of a model
The slimming industry in Singapore is big business
She is now recovering after a successful transplant operation, but others have not been so lucky.

Selvarani Raja died when her liver failed, apparently after taking the same pills for a few months. She made a death-bed plea to her family to seek justice.

The product which is being blamed for the health scare is Slim 10.

Dangerous content

Manufactured in China, and launched in Singapore in last year, it was subsequently pulled from the shelves when routine tests showed the capsules contained undeclared and potentially dangerous ingredients - even though it originally met safety standards.

Dr Clarence Tan, the CEO of Singapore's Health Services Authority, has investigated the product.

"In the course of our investigation... we have determined that this is a situation of adulteration of a product after introduction to the market," he said.

No conclusive link has yet been established between Slim 10 and possible health risks, but urgent tests are now being carried out on another 45 slimming products.

Warning

And the medical community is warning that all diet pills need to be treated with caution.

Dietician Han Wee Ming says that "with all medications they (the consumers) can have some form of side effects which can be life threatening, especially if they do not take them under appropriate medical supervision".

Some 20,000 bottles of Slim 10 had been sold before the pills were withdrawn, and the slimming industry in Singapore is worth tens of millions of dollars.

The discussion has now moved on to why so many people here are taking such products, and whether a slimmer figure is worth risking your life for.

See also:

10 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
09 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
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