What to be aware of when buying condoms

What to be aware of when buying condoms

You pat yourself on the back that you are doing the right and responsible thing because you are using condoms but did you know that just under 100,000 unsafe and illegal condoms were recovered by relevant authorities in the UK in the past two years? 

The condoms were seized by the government agency, The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency or MHRA throughout 2018 and 2019 and were defective for one or more of the following reasons:-

  • They were past their expiry date
  • They had not undergone safety testing under current EU regulation
  • They did not meet current standards on the display of safety symbols

Rather worryingly or not depending on your standpoint, around 87.500 of the condoms came from one single raid in 2018.  condoms were top of the MHRA’s list of unsafe medical products in 2018 and were part of a huge international operation coordinated by Interpol called Operation Pangea and which involved 116 countries.  This just demonstrates the scale of cheap condom production across the world.  So what safety checks should you be carrying out when buying condoms, what is the best practice to keep yourself safe from transmitted diseases with quality products?

  • Always buy from a reputable site even if it means paying a bit more for your condoms
  • Try and purchase from a site you know is genuine, many have loyalty schemes to encourage customers to return with tempting incentives and discounts
  • If you are using a site that is new to you, look for peer reviews on it and drill right down into the detail – it is easy to hide cheap foreign imports behind glossy library images and stock photographs
  • Consider obtaining condoms from a chemist, pharmacist or your GP surgery.  They are also available at sexual health clinics
  • When your purchase arrives or if you are buying instore, always check the expiry date and condition of the condoms.  Never use a condom that is out of date as the integrity of the condom can begin to break down
  • Latex condoms are made from natural rubber but cheaper alternatives could cause skin reactions and other health complications.  Some of the products used in cheap imported condoms are unsafe because they contain chemicals which can make the condom porous so essentially they can leak after ejaculation
  • Look for the BSI kitemark or CE mark on the product pack, this means the condom has been subject to testing to a specified and clear standard.  If the marks are absent then don’t buy
  • Your packet should contain instructions in a range of European languages.  Any packets missing the instruction leaflet or only in foreign languages or even containing spelling mistakes should be thrown away
  • Store your condoms away from direct sunlight.  Make sure latex condoms do not come into contact with any oily materials like massage oils, oil-based mosturisers or lube.  This will begin to affect the structure of the condom and could damage it
  • Try and keep your condoms somewhere when the outer packaging will not become squashed or damaged.
  • If you ever have any doubt about a condom even if the kitemarks are present and it is within date, always discard it – the risks far outweigh the cost of buying another one

If you do find yourself with a condom that you don’t like the look of, you can report the purchase via the MHRA Yellow Card Scheme – this is to flag up the quality and/or safety of any medical items.

Most people don’t give a second thought to their condom; their thinking is that they are using one so they are safe enough.  And you are hardly likely to forensically examine the packaging in a moment of intense passion, pausing to spotlight the ripped wrapper discarded on the carpet or put your glasses on to make sure the correct kitemarks are visible.  What a passion killer!  So, check beforehand when you purchase the condoms that everyone is in date and bears the right regulatory stamps and then put them away somewhere cool and safe, ready for when they are needed. Less than a minute’s care attention could have a profound impact on your health and wellbeing.

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Stuart Brown

Stuart Brown

I'm Stuart, senior Editor at British Condoms. I am an expert in all areas of sexual health and have a passion to drive knowledge to youth in the UK. Any questions for me or media enquiries, please feel free to tweet me @britishcondoms. Always open to engagement.

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