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Who broke the condoms?

By Zhang Yiwei (Global Times)

08:56, April 28, 2013

Photo: GT

In what was both fodder for online comedy as well as a serious health scare, a batch of faulty condoms that were allegedly made in China and sold to Ghana had invisible holes, were too small and were not adequately lubricated.

It was no joke to the Ghanaian authorities however, who issued an alert earlier this month, stating that they had seized a large number of faulty condoms imported from China. They disclosed the batch numbers of the condoms to raise awareness of the problem and try to avert a health scare.

However, the Chinese manufacturer involved in the case said it was being unfairly blamed, and has sent representatives to Ghana to conduct further investigations.

This isn't the first time African authorities have claimed faulty products imported from China were posing public health risks. Recent accusations that fake drugs from China were entering the African market also made waves in terms of trade ties between Africa and China.

130 million problems

The Food and Drug Authority (FDA) of Ghana impounded 110 million faulty condoms imported from China after test results labeled them substandard, with another 20 million condoms already distributed to the market, James Largey, head of communications and public education at the FDA, told the Global Times.

The specific location and the name of the manufacturer don't appear on the condom packages, with only the words "Be Safe" in red and "Manufactured by PRC" on the packages.

After investigations and help from the import agency, the FDA discovered that the manufacturer was the Henan Xibei Latex Company, located in Xinxiang, Henan Province.

In Ghana, an estimated 230,000 people out of the population of 25 million are living with HIV, making authorities concerned about the 20 million faulty condoms already on the market. Largey told the Global Times that the fact people may not know the condoms are faulty is a big problem, as people may unknowingly be exposing others to pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.

The Henan Xibei Latex Company, a condom manufacturer launched in 2003 whose export sales represent more than 70 percent of its total sales, refuted the claims from the FDA, saying that the company provided just 25 million condoms to Ghana in June. It asserted in a statement on April 21 that its products lived up to test standards before clearing customs. And it sent out a three-person investigation group to Ghana on Monday. Calls to the company from the Global Times went unanswered as of press time.

Largey claimed that the name of the company was provided by the import agency, but he could not make claims as to its accuracy, because the manufacturer's identity was not included on the packages. He pointed out that imports that do not have the address of the manufacturer on the package are not allowed into the country, so there was the possibility that smuggling was involved.

Samples of the company's products have been collected by the Henan provincial food and drug administration to be tested. The company was ordered to suspend sales until the results are ready.

A confidential government source told the Global Times that the Chinese government wouldn't want to intervene or take a stand at this juncture, as the company should first try to deal with the problem.

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