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Buyer beware: Spread of fake condoms is rampant

Along with tainted baby food, deadly toothpaste, and drywall that smells of rotten eggs, consumers may have yet another Chinese import to be wary of: counterfeit condoms. According to a Times Online story, a recent police raid of a Chinese factory revealed the manufacture of knock-off rubbers that, besides being about as effective as a sieve at preventing disease and pregnancy, are produced under less-than-sterile conditions:

“Bare-chested employees were found using vegetable oil to lubricate the condoms to make them smooth and shiny before placing them directly in fibre bags without bothering with sterilisation. “

Talk about a boner kill. It’s estimated the factory produced about 2.6 million condoms, and police have no idea where about a million of those might be. The factory is just one of many involved in the production of phony rubbers, a problem officials called “rampant.” So clear out a little space in that section of the brain reserved helpful life tips, and remember some of these counterfeit condom FAQs.

Is fake condom manufacture a new thing?

Hardly—reports of counterfeit condoms have appeared sporadically throughout the past decade, from India to Asia, the Pacific Islands and… Milwaukee. Thanks to efforts by groups like the U.N.’s Population Fund, more people are using condoms worldwide. That’s good for safety reasons, but bad because the increased demand spurs counterfeiting operations.

Have these fake condoms made their way to the U.S.?

Officials aren’t sure where this recent batch of Chinese condoms ended up, although there’s no reason to think they’re sitting at the Port of Miami, waiting distribution to your local bodega. Still, considering the worldwide increase in knock-off condom production, it’s always good to be wary of the origins and quality of the condoms you purchase.

So what are the telltale signs of counterfeit condoms?

Cheesy, off-brand names are one indicator—the condoms in the recent raid were being sold under the names “Jissbon”, “Rough Rider”, “Six Sense” and “Love Card” (although some of the knock-offs were marked as “Durex,” a pretty common and reliable U.S. brand). Another tip-off is price point. Officials point out that counterfeit condoms are often sold at a much lower price than real condoms. Is it really worth saving a few dollars on rubbers with the risk that they don’t even work? Not unless you plan to spend that money on the latest edition of What to Expect When You’re Expecting.

How can I avoid them?

Stick with well-known brands purchased at mainstream grocery stores and big box stores. Avoid off-brand novelty condoms or those sold at dollar stores. Beware condoms sold in vending machines in bar bathrooms. And in general, don’t buy anything with Chinese characters and Dywane Wade’s face on it.