The South African Department of Health has been updated by the South African Bureau of Standards on the ongoing audit relating to the evaluation of condoms that are distributed by the Department of Health under a brand name “Choice”.
These condoms are supplied by seven private companies that were awarded a tender to support the free condom distribution programme in the country. This programme is a crucial element of the Health Department’s effort to prevent sexually transmitted infections including HIV and to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
As part of the tender specifications, the Department of Health requires that all condoms be certified by SABS as being of adequate quality in term of the standards set by the World Health Organization.
As you are aware, the Department of Health is recalling all condoms supplied by one of the seven companies, Zalatex (and produced by Latex Surgical Products [LSP]) as a precautionary measure. This follows charges that Zalatex bribed an official of the SABS to approve condoms that were not conforming to the quality standards.
Close to 5 million condoms supplied by Zalatex have been collected since the recall and an additional 7, 5 million condoms have been quarantined at the company’s warehouse. An urgent meeting of the Bid Adjudication Committee has been called for next week to review the contract with Zalatex and the recommendation from the Department of Health is that the contract should be cancelled. The Department has ceased buying any stock from Zalatex.
We urge the public to continue to support the recall of these condoms by returning to the nearest health facility all condoms with a lot number: 4308/ZLX?
SABS has reported to the Department of Health that the organisation has audited the remaining six suppliers. There were anomalies requiring further investigation regarding some batches of condoms supplied by at least three companies. The SABS has audited the quality assurance measures at these three companies and is satisfied that the production processes at these companies meet the necessary standard.
However, the SABS has recommended that the Department quarantines the most recent batches of condoms supplied by these companies for retesting over the next week. This is intended to verify the quality of these condoms and inform the final conclusions of the audit process that is currently underway.
Information relating to the conclusion of this audit process will be made available in due course.
In the meantime, it is important to continue to encourage the correct and consistent use of condoms as an important barrier against unwanted pregnancies and STIs including HIV infection. The Department of Health will continue to work together with SABS to ensure that all condoms distributed by government conform to the quality standard set by the WHO.