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The Ministry of Health is to remove from the market, the four brands of toilet tissue found to be contaminated.

At the Jamaica House press briefing held at the Office of the Prime Minister on Wednesday, April 17, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Dr. Jean Dixon and Chairman of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ), Dr. Winston Davidson, outlined details on the issue, which has raised concern among Jamaicans.

Samples of the brands, tested by the BSJ, indicate high levels of bacteria, which may cause infections.

The BSJ is to submit details of its test results to the Ministry of Health on Wednesday. The Ministry has launched its own investigation following the findings of the BSJ.

“We are not proposing to retest, but certainly, one of the issues we will be looking at is the sampling protocols and to see if there are any trends,” Dr. Dixon said.

“Contamination of the products that we use could happen at any stage in the chain…so we will be having further dialogue with our colleagues at the Bureau on this matter. We will have to look at the organisms that are involved to see (if) these organisms are restricted to toilet paper…would the level at which we are finding them be cause for concern,” she noted further.

Meanwhile, Dr. Davidson stressed that despite public calls for the names of the contaminated brands to be published, the standards testing agency has to be cautious in its actions. He said the agency does not have the “legal coverage” to make the information public and must be mindful of bringing the agency’s credibility into question.

“If we had the particular legal coverage to do it, it would have been done long ago,” he stated.

“The fact is that the Bureau is a scientific institution, and we give the facts as they are, satisfied by objective data. One test will maybe carry you into five days, and you have to be careful that you do not give test results that are spurious and put you in disrepute. So this particular exercise has been very carefully done,” he stated.

“We know that the public has a right to know, and we would like to give the public all the information, but there are some constraints that we face,” he added.

Meanwhile, in light of the development, Dr. Davidson said the Bureau is looking to have tissue added to its protocol list. He said the agency only performs tests on products that are provided for within its protocol and tissue is not among the list of items.

“We did not have toilet tissue evaluation as part of our protocol. Companies exporting to Jamaica therefore do not have that as a precondition for export to Jamaica. It means that if we embark on taking a decision to stop a company from coming into Jamaica, we expose ourselves to the question – it was not on your protocol list, therefore on what basis do you stand?,” he stated.

The Bureau is halfway through testing the 60 brands of tissue that are available on the local market and has, to date, publicised 24 brands that have passed the standards tests. Sixteen of those brands are locally produced. It takes a minimum of one week for microbiological tests to be completed.

The Bureau also said the four samples/brands identified with high bacteria counts have been under detention for the past nine weeks and a recall has been issued for any product that had been previously distributed. Comparative testing is currently being done on these samples.

Importers of brands with unacceptable levels of bacteria will be required to either re-export or destroy the product. Where destruction is selected the BSJ will monitor the process.

By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter