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Alert: Counterfeit condoms spread out in China and sold in USA

Posted by Author on January 30, 2010

By John M. Glionna, the Los Angeles Times, January 21, 2010-

Reporting from Beijing
– Sex shop owner Wang Yunsu wondered how so many competitors could suddenly undercut her low prophylactic prices.

Now she thinks she knows: The other condoms are counterfeit.

“Some manufacturers are cutting corners,” she said, stocking a shelf with a domestic brand whose name translates as Forever Love. “And it’s all about profit.”

It’s China’s latest knockoff scandal — inferior contraceptives that health officials say provide little protection and may in fact spread infectious diseases, tarnishing the axiom that condoms mean safe sex.

In November, investigators in Hunan province provided details about a July raid on an underground workshop where they found laborers lubricating condoms with vegetable oil in unsterile conditions, passing off the counterfeits as high-quality-brand products.

It wasn’t the first such bust. Police in 2008 raided an illicit factory in Zhejiang province, seizing half a million knockoff condoms.

In another case, workers recycled used condoms into hair bands in southern China.

“People could be infected with AIDS, [genital] warts or other diseases if they hold the rubber bands or strings in their mouths while weaving their hair into plaits or buns,” a dermatologist told the state-run China Daily newspaper.

The practice poses yet another disease threat in the world’s most-populous nation, where more than 2 billion condoms are used each year, supporting an estimated $530-million industry.

China mass-produces countless fake brand-name consumer goods, from shoes and handbags to DVDs and iPods, even beer. But after tainted milk killed six Chinese children and sickened about 300,000 in 2008, the spread of counterfeit condoms further demonstrates that unscrupulous manufacturers will stop at nothing to turn a profit.

Authorities estimate that up to a third of the contraceptives used in some parts of China are counterfeits, despite improvements in state food and drug oversight. None of the counterfeits are properly sterilized, and others are of such inferior quality that they could rupture during use. Authorities say they’re all dangerous.

“The quality of the knockoff condoms cannot be guaranteed, and they can easily break,” said Cheng Feng, director of the group Family Health International, China. “Such condoms definitely cannot play the role of contraception and disease prevention.”

But counterfeit condoms aren’t being sold only in China.

In 2008, officials in the New York area confiscated knockoff Chinese-made goods, including millions of phony Trojan-brand condoms that were sold in small discount stores in New York, Texas and Virginia……(more details from the Los Angeles Times)

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