This week Jamaicans are convulsed about substandard toilet paper on supermarket shelves that may have caused a rash of vaginal infections. The truth is we don’t know much. The Bureau of Standards claims to have found four brands that may be ‘contaminated’ but refuses to name them. Instead they are laboriously naming dozens of other loo paper that have alledgedly passed their tests. It leaves Jamaicans in a quandary. Should people like my friend Heather who invested in a case of toilet paper dump the lot because its not on the BOS list of safe tissues? Is it even safe to take a dump? The selection of tweets below, all dated today, will fill give some idea of the extent of the problem:
Dionne JacksonMiller @djmillerJA
Coming up at 5.30 – the toilet tissue issue @RJR94fm Beyond the Headlines
Deika Morrison @deikamorrison
Toilet paper with expiry date? Huh? #TissueIssue
@BigBlackBarry How yu can have a female PM silent when women in this country are being subjected to bacterial assaults on their vaginas?
Dionne JacksonMiller @djmillerJA
Next – a local manufacturer on the toilet tissue issue @RJR94fm Beyond the Headlines
Does the BSJ have lawyers? have said lawyers told them that truth is a defense? or is it that BSJ don’t trust their own tests?
Emma Lewis @Petchary
Does the Bureau of Standards test baby diapers too? Just wondering…
This bredda is a kratches….him need fi wipe up with tainted tissue
The Bureau of Standards are a spineless set of BUREAUCRATS who refuse to protect the public out of fear. Shame on Dr. Davidson! #tissueissue
@Sarahjah: Tissuegate. Smh.
Julian Cresser @JulianCresser
@anniepaul Why aren’t they being fair? They have told us what is safe. They don’t need to name the unsafe ones.
May i recommend a ‘lota‘ to Jamaicans distressed by the #TissueIssue. As the Mighty Sparrow said to his would-be Dulaheen:” I’ll gladly trade my toilet paper for some water!”
And beyond that perhaps we should consider whether this whole folderol is just a tissue of lies concocted by local toilet paper manufacturers to protect themselves against ‘foreign’ (read Chinese) imports of the sanitary product.
It was news to me to find out that this tissue issue had reared its head as far back as February this year albeit in a slightly different context. As a Gleaner article dated Feb 3, 2013, Shoddy imported tissue raises stink, has it:
Scores of Jamaicans are purchasing substandard toilet tissues and putting themselves at risk of serious health problems.
Sources in the health and manufacturing sectors last week confirmed that a large quantity of substandard toilet tissues is being imported into the island, mainly from Asia.
The Jamaica Customs Department also confirmed that there are indications that the quality of some of the tissues being imported from China is less than acceptable.
A Sunday Gleaner probe revealed that the three major local manufacturers of toilet tissues have been lobbying the Government for changes to the import regulatory framework.
The manufacturers have also dispatched complaints to the Customs Department about the inequality inherent in the system.
They have claimed that the labels on some of tissues from Asia are not written in English.
In addition, local regulation states that the minimum sheet count allowed in Jamaica is 300, while the sheet count of tissues from Asia is between 200 and 240.
In the meantime the Jamaican Bureau of Standards (BOS) is digging in its heels and refusing to divulge the names of the contaminated toilet tissue brands. According to this Radio Jamaica (RJR) report:
While the names of the four brands of toilet paper have not been released, RJR news has learnt that one brand is imported from within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Last week the Bureau of Standards said it was waiting for conclusive scientific tests to be done overseas, before revealing the brand of contaminated toilet paper.
However, Professor Winston Davidson – the Chairman of the Bureau of Standards now says the names may not be released due to legal concerns.
He argues that the Bureau never asked the manufacturers of toilet paper to meet microbiological standards – similar to what is required for food imports.
Concerning reports that some supermarkets still had contaminated toilet paper on their shelves – Davidson admitted that this was true.
However, the Ministry of Health has stepped in and revealed that it will be removing the affected toilet paper brands from the public domain.
More as the situation unrolls…er…unravels…
13 thoughts on “To Dump or Not to Dump: Bureau of No Standards…? #TissueGate #Jamaica”
What baffles me is that the BSJ refuses to divulge the offending toilet tissue brands for fear of a lawsuit. Ridiculous! What is the point of the whole exercise in that case? They are just keeping all the bad stuff to themselves…
Yes but what if, as I’m suggesting, this is an orchestrated campaign against foreign toilet paper? Do we know exactly how many cases there are of such infections? In other words look beyond this imbroglio with the BOS which i agree is complete BS. I’m all for complete disclosure all the time, this business of everything being clandestine and secret drives me nuts. I’m just saying I’ve never heard the media clamour for information in this way…contrast this with the situation in Mandeville a year or two ago and the Chinese restaurant several of whose clients came down with food poisoning. The same thing happened, the restaurant wasn’t named but that time the press argued the case that the BOS is now arguing–i.e. a potential lawsuit prevented them from disclosing the name etc. why the about turn now? can’t help but wonder…
It’s gonna take some getting used to but henceforth I [wo]man shall be washing and not wiping.
Thanks Karee, I grew up with water but now after living in the west these many years am hopelessly addicted to toilet paper….
Dear Karee – good luck with that when you’re away from home! 🙂
Thanks for this post Annie – certainly, it would be good to now how widespread the problem is. But we can’t have a standards agency, a regulator, stating that there IS a problem and then refusing to give the public the information they need to protect themselves. I swear, if we closed down all the GOJ regulatory agencies, we wouldn’t notice. And how much does the Bureau of Standards cost taxpayers? if it is so impotent, then what is its purpose?
Those are all valid questions that need to be asked Diana. I would love to see Simon Crosskill tackle the Chairman of the BOS on those pathetic reasons offered for not naming the suspect tissues…i’m with you on that completely…
I think the concept of washing is better than the toilet paper. I wash and use I feel much cleaner than if I just used toilet paper alone. Back in the day, the old house in Kingston used to be built with bidets in the bathrooms. The Asians wash their privates after relieving themselves, making them less susceptible to infections that Westerners seem to contract in droves. Also, in public lavatories, they should install splash guards over toilet paper because some nasty people out there can’t seem to empty all their “contents” directly in the toilet…
washing is what i was referring to when i mentioned ‘lota’…It’s what Indians use, definitely more hygienic but not always convenient, especially when toilets aren’t equipped for it.
Well I’m not surprised at the secrecy. It’s a way of life out here when it comes down to businesses or people who have messed up. You will hear a news story about some product or service that is potentially hazardous or substandard (toilet tissue, food, etc) or which violated some regulation/law and the distributors/sellers of the product/service will NEVER be named. I remember a few years ago the newspapers even went out of their way to protect the identity of buses which were photographed doing dangerous stunts (with the conductor leaning out of the door and hitting the roof of the car the bus intended to cut in front of to cause the driver to hit the brakes after being startled). And despite the claim that tests are ongoing and more brands would be added to the approved list, we have seen nothing of the story since.
What really demonstrates how BS this all is, is the fact that the BOS does not even have to say that the four brands “failed”. All they need do is to simply publish the results of their microbial analysis (publish the bacterial loads) and cover their asses with a statement that “the above results were based upon analysis of samples taken on XYZ day and do not necessarily indicate that any particular brand of tissue is unsafe or that any particular brand of tissue regularly contains bacteria in the concentrations found in the samples above. Further testing will be done with more samples officially submitted by the manufacturers”.
Then let people make informed decisions for themselves.
As it stands now some of the brands on the “approved list” are foreign (some from the USA, some from T&T) and some are domestic and all of those not on the “approved list” range from foreign (US, China, T&T) to domestic. I think many of those not on the approved list might actually have a legal leg to stand on if they decided to sue the BOS for any losses to their business since quite obviously the number of brands not on the approved list is more than the four brands the BOS initially claimed were hazardous. Hence these brands will suffer by association merely because they haven’t made it onto the BOS list of approved tissue papers (even though the BOS itself admits that it has NO phyto-sanitary standards for tissue paper as it does for food and hence the very idea of having an “approved list” is ridiculous since their is nothing by which one can objectively place them on such a list). I kind of hope they do band together and sue the pants off the BOS. Maybe that will force the BOS to stop wasting money and time by telling the public about a potential problem but then refusing to give details. Either they give us the details or just don’t bother at all.
Thanks, completely agree, the whole thing borders on farce…what’s scary is that the govt and its representatives can proffer all this with a straight face.
Yes, it is completely farcical and does nothing to engender trust in our institutions. After all it seems the BOS now seems more intent on protecting the manufacturer than the consumer, although I suppose one could cynically argue that the BOS’ job is not to protect the consumer (that would be for the Consumer Affairs Commission) but to merely set standards. Of course since there are no BOS set standards for acceptable bacterial loads in tissue paper one has to wonder what the BOS are actually doing testing tissue paper in the first place since they have no standards to compare it to……