The Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has issued an alert to colleagues including Environmental Health teams regarding recent hospitalisations and deaths reported across the UK relating to the consumption of 2,4- Dinitrophenol (DNP).

DNP is an industrial chemical that is unfit for human consumption and illegal for use in foodstuffs. Despite best efforts to remove products from sale, this product is still available and may be used by people trying to alter their appearance, such as body builders and those attempting to achieve rapid or extreme weight loss, including some who may be vulnerable.

DNP is usually sold as a yellow powder, sometimes in capsule form and is marketed as a ‘fat burner’ or weight loss supplement. The DNP may be mixed with ‘bulking agents,’ so the dose of DNP may not be apparent to users which, coupled with the cumulative effect of subsequent doses, can significantly increase the risk to health. 

Suppliers of DNP target chatrooms on social media and may lead discussions on so-called ‘safe’ dosage. DNP, however, is highly toxic, there is no defined ‘safe’ dose and the chemical and should not be consumed under any circumstances. 

The letter states that prior to 2012, enquiries to the National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) regarding cases of DNP toxicity were rare, but the number of cases referred, and documented fatalities, have increased sharply since then. The majority of cases have involved younger adults, with more males affected than females. During 2018, the NPIS recorded the highest number of DNP exposed cases (20) and DNP related deaths (six) since 2015.

Health professionals presented with any product that is suspected of containing DNP are being asked to retain it and contact Food Standards Scotland (FSS), who will arrange for collection. Members of the public who possess DNP at home should also be advised to contact FSS to arrange collection. 

The Scottish Government is working with Food Standards Scotland (FSS), Health Protection Scotland (HPS), NHS boards and local authorities to raise awareness of the dangers of this chemical and to remove products containing DNP from sale.

Further information is available from the FSS website.