BEIRUT: The Economy Ministry defended itself Friday against allegations it had failed to aggressively follow up on recent reports of low quality and possibly toxic sanitary pads.
“We have gathered over 100 samples of this specific brand from several areas all over the country and sent them to a laboratory for investigation,” said Fouad Fleifil, director-general of the ministry. Fleifil said that scientific proof was needed to determine the ministry’s next step.
“So far the results are reassuring, and the quality of those examined reflects adherence to good standards. However, nothing can be certain yet,” he added.
Fleifil declined to reveal the name of the brand before evidence had been found, but he did reveal the packaging was a dark greenish-blue.
The scandal first broke in the local media last month after a number of women in Tripoli reported buying pads from a local supermarket that turned out to be “dirty.”
The women later told Consumers Lebanon, a nongovernmental consumer rights organization, that the pads were being sold for between LL1,500 to LL1,250 per packet, about 750 lira cheaper than usual.
“The products we examined had a brownish color, which meant that the material in them had undergone a chemical reaction called oxidation,” said Zouhair Berro, Consumers Lebanon’s head. “Good-quality pads are made of a substance called cellulose, which never oxidizes this way.”
Berro said the pads examined by Consumers Lebanon were made out of a “cheap cloth.”
Dr. Faisal al-Kak, the former president of the Lebanese Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said that based on the information available there was clear cause for concern, although he said he could not be more specific without knowing the exact material used in the products.
“These cheap substances contain toxic materials that attract infection and yeast growth,” Kak said.
According to Berro, there are several possibilities that could have led to substandard pads being sold to consumers. The supermarket in question might have forged the expiration date in order to sell products that had passed their shelf life, he said, or a local manufacturer could be producing a counterfeit version of a well-known brand using cheap materials.
The Daily Star contacted Always but the company denied knowledge of the scandal.
Nana, another brand that uses a similar colored packaging, could not be reached for comment.
Berro expressed frustration at the pace of the ministry’s investigation.
Fleifil responded to the criticism by saying the ministry’s testing had not turned up anything suspicious.
“Whoever wants to make an uproar about a consumers’ issue had better have scientific proof first,” Fleifil said.