Officials at the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are working to seize counterfeit contact lenses, illegally imported decorative lenses and lenses unapproved by the FDA.
This ongoing effort, coordinated with the ICE-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center in Washington, is called "Operation Double Vision."
"Even though Halloween approaches, consumers shouldn't let a good deal or great costume blind them to the dangers of counterfeit decorative contact lenses," James Dinkins, executive associate director of the Homeland Security Investigations, said in a statement.
"What's truly scary is the damage these counterfeit lenses can do to your eyes for a lifetime."
No one should buy contact lenses from Halloween or novelty shops, salons, beauty supply stores, or online without a prescription, officials warned.
Although many places illegally sell decorative contact lenses to consumers without valid prescriptions for as little as $20, these vendors are not authorized distributors of contact lenses, which by law require a prescription, Dinkins said.
Because of the inherent medical risks, it is illegal to purchase or sell contact lenses of any kind without a prescription from an ophthalmologist, optometrist or a specially licensed optician under the supervision of an eye doctor, Dinkins said.
"Our concern is that consumers who buy and use decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription can run significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness," John Roth, director of FDA's Office of Criminal Investigations, said. "It is always better to involve a qualified eye care professional and protect your vision."