As we now know, Chinese authorities managed to take down a national condom-counterfeiting ring in August. In a series of raids across eastern and central China, they confiscated fake condoms with a combined value of approximately 50 million Yuan (roughly 6.3 million Euros). The cheap knock-offs were being passed off as popular brand products from Chinese manufacturers and prestigious international manufacturers such as Durex.
According to Chinese media reports, the gang sold their potentially dangerous fakes to hotels, supermarkets and vending machine operators. The scam was exposed when authorities became aware of a local retailer in the province of Zehijang selling the counterfeit condoms for a fraction of the original price. A total of 17 suspected members of the counterfeiting ring were subsequently arrested and are currently still under investigation.
The counterfeits appear to have been produced in often improvised workshops in Henan and Hubei provinces, in some cases in presumably atrocious hygiene conditions. ‘The blended the condoms with silicone oil in a bucket. It was totally below official manufacturing standards,’ said Zheng Xidan, one of the investigators.
Counterfeit contraceptives can be a serious health risk. ‘In those illegal workshops, which are often very dirty, it’s unlikely they have the right methods to control the bacteria and fungi level or test for holes,’ explains Chen He, Product Manager at a Chinese condom-manufacturing firm.
Unfortunately, dangerous counterfeits are rife: As recently as February, Chinese authorities took about two million low-quality, fake condoms off the streets; in Henan alone, at least 10 cases on a similar scale are believed to have been brought to court since 2014. In Europe, for example, in 2015 Italian customs seized hundreds of thousands of fake condoms originating from China, with media at the time reporting they were virtually indistinguishable from the real thing. In the same year, millions of counterfeit condoms in Australia hit the headlines.