Friday, 17 September 2010

The Lowdown on Toilet Paper

I didn't really look into the perils of buying toilet paper until a few weeks ago when I was not only considering the price (because hey, it's toilet paper), but also quality.

And I was horrified to discover many of the brands on sale here bleach their toilet paper. It's only going to be used once! Why does it need to be bleached?! So I bought some Scott toilet paper which did not mention any bleaching on its packaging and I'm probably going to stick with that brand.

So it was interesting to find in the South China Morning Post today that the toilet paper in China has tons of bacteria in it.

That's because the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) tested samples from the warehouses of nearly 600 toilet paper manufacturers in every province -- are there really that many? -- and found 10 percent failed to meet quality standards. Germs were found in 18 cases. Yikes.

Three of the unhygienic brands, Weisen, Fook Woo and Daxinghe are made in Guangdong. Fook Woo is a Hong Kong-mainland joint venture that is publicly listed in Hong Kong, and is the biggest paper recycler in China. It didn't comment on the report for the article. Apparently none of these brands are on sale in Hong Kong, but could possibly be stocked in every other restaurant or hotel across the border wanting to cut costs on toilet paper.

However, Jiang Guowang, general manager of Foshan Weisen Paper Company said the toilet paper that was tested was made from recycled paper which is usually exported, while the ones for domestic consumers are made of virgin pulp. Virgin pulp! Isn't that also a horrendous offense?

"Western consumers seem to be more concerned about the environment," Jiang said. "Chinese consumers are more concerned about germs. I won't say 100 percent, but more than 90 percent of the recycled paper products are germ infested."

Is he saying that when paper is recycled, it's not put back into a hot soupy mixture before being made into paper again? How do they recycle the paper then?

Liang Jingyu, a quality inspector for the National Paper Products Quality Supervision and Testing Centre, based in Dongguan, said all toilet paper products, regardless of their raw materials, should meet minimum hygiene levels.

The AQSIQ tested for three types of bacteria: E coli, which makes the lower intestine their home and cause bloody diarrhea; golden staph, an itchy and sometimes fatal germ; and a chain-like micro-organism called haemolytic streptococcus, which destroys white blood cells.

Luckily all the toilet paper didn't test positive for the above three diseases, but the 10 percent of toilet paper tested failed when it came to bacterial quantity. A small piece of toilet paper was left in a test tube with a nutrition solution for a few days and then the colonies of bacteria were counted.

"Too many germs on toilet paper is bad for human health," Liang said. "We can't say all of them cause diseases, but they certainly won't help." The report didn't reveal by how much the bacterial levels exceeded national standards.

If the recycled toilet paper is mostly exported overseas, then does this mean China is exporting its bacteria too?

Then again, as long as you're only using toilet paper once, you should be OK... right?

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