Would you use a foreign-made condom because it was cheaper than an American-made condom? I know, you’re probably thinking, “Wait, does it matter where my condoms are made?” Perhaps. There was a time when the “Made in America” stamp on a condom box meant its contents were high quality and would perform their function. But the federally-funded United States Agency of International Development, which has distributed an estimated 10 billion condoms overseas, recently chose to replace its contract with Alatech, a condom manufacturer in Alabama, with manufacturers in China and Korea. The overseas condom makers can sell their product to USAID for 2 cents, whereas Alatech sells its condoms for 5 cents. The change came after Congress omitted “buy American” language from a recent appropriations bill. This switch threatens 300 jobs in Eufala, Alabama where Alatech is located, but could it also give the people USAID is trying to help a false sense of security?Let’s face it, Chinese manufacturers haven’t had the best track record in recent years. Pet food, toothpaste, toys, and drywall exported from China have had problems, making Americans wary of the “Made in China” label. So should we expect a recall of Chinese condoms in the future? USAID says no because condoms made in China are just as durable as U.S.-made condoms.
But condom industry insiders disagree. A consultant to the condom industry, who has worked for Alatech, said China is “learning” to make better condoms, but their products are “notoriously suspect.” He added that China doesn’t have the high level of integrity that Alatech has developed over the years. Even Chinese condom manufacturers have admitted that Chinese buyers have complained about their county’s condoms, saying the condoms were too thick and low quality. Americans have also had complaints about Chinese-made condoms. AIDS groups in Washington, D.C. passed out free Chinese-made condoms in 2007. The condoms had unreadable expiration dates, and the groups alleged that just tearing open the package damaged the condoms.
Do you check where your condoms are made or the expiration date? Are you hesitant to use condoms made in China? Should the government have a responsibility to buy American whenever possible?