Bacteria-loaded toilet paper creates stink in Jamaica

(Jamaica Gleaner) Confusion reigned yesterday in the local manufacturing sector as there was a mad rush by retailers to return products to local toilet-paper manufacturers after the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) on Monday published what has been described as a preliminary list of acceptable brands.

The list had been published after BSJ tests conducted on toilet-paper brands found levels of bacteria which could lead to infections in users.

One clearly peeved supplier, who spent the day staving off anxious retailers, complained that the BSJ had failed to be proactive after The Gleaner last month published allegations that there was substandard toilet paper with severe health implications circulating in the public domain.

“Based on the Gleaner stories, what should have happened is that the bureau should have issued a public notice to all manufacturers and importers of toilet tissues to send a sample of their products to its offices as they were conducting bacteriological tests … . No standard has been set on bacterial levels for Jamaica, so they can’t reject it because there is no test,” the manufacturer argued.

The absence of such a national standard could possibly open the door to lawsuits if the BSJ releases the names of brands which have failed or otherwise not been approved by the BSJ.

Following a February Sunday Gleaner exposé on the health risks suspected to have been created by some imported tissue products, local authorities in March conducted tests and confirmed the reports with three shipments ordered returned or destroyed.

The health ministry late yesterday rushed to assuage the fears of members of the public.

“The Ministry of Health is aware of strong public sentiment following recent reports of high bacterial load on samples of at least four brands of household toilet tissue,” Chief Medical Officer Michael Coombs said in a statement.

“We take even more interest in this matter as indications are that the Bureau of Standards’ testing of several brands was prompted by reports of gynaecological incidents.”

Coombs said the test results and the reported incidents bear implications for public health and safety.

He added that his office has launched an investigation into the circumstances of both the reports of the BSJ tests and the gynaecological incidents.

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