FACT CHECK:   Did a consumer find a piece of metal embedded in a “U by Kotex” brand tampon?

Claim:    A consumer found a piece of metal embedded in a “U by Kotex” brand tampon.

  UNDETERMINED

Examples:   [Collected via Facebook, September 2015]

Origins:   On 17 September 2015, a Facebook user published the photographs displayed above along with the following claim about finding a piece of metal embedded in a “U by Kotex” brand tampon:

This is for all my LADY friends (sorry guys) please check before you use your feminine hygiene products.

This is what I found in mine from the brand U by Kotex..

I never check them but now I’ll be checking them all.

The post included five embedded photographs of a single, blue U by Kotex brand tampon with its applicator partially engaged. Typically, the manner in which tampons are inserted precludes such examination prior to their usage, as once the non-applicator portion of the tampon is exposed, insertion is slightly impeded. Examining the majority of tampons in the fashion depicted since would render them difficult or impossible to insert. (By contrast, the green tampon seen above is unwrapped and assembled for use: no cotton is visible near the applicator’s opening.)

When commenters on the thread asked the woman who shared the photographs why the tampon depicted had a partially engaged applicator if she intended to use it, she replied:

I know I almost missed it … I never used that brand before so it said pull until u hear the click so I did but I pushed it out of the applicator by and accident and went to push it back in and say the metal piece

Several Facebook users shared the photographs to U by Kotex’s Facebook wall, to which the brand replied without addressing the specifics of the complaint:

You’re spot on with safety being the number one priority! The safety of the women who trust U by Kotex products is our top concern and we want to work with this consumer directly to learn more about the situation. We can assure you that our manufacturing process has been thoroughly evaluated and U by Kotex tampons must pass rigorous safety checks before leaving our facilities, in alignment with FDA standards. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact our team at http://spr.ly/6183BJCIt or by phone at 877-485-6839 (Monday through Friday, 8 am – 6 pm CST). Please mention referral code SM when you contact us. Thank you.

Metal shavings in tampons are not without precedent: in 2012 Kotex’s parent company, Kimberly-Clark, warned consumers about the theft of thousands of cases of tampons that failed to meet quality control standards:

The Dallas-based company said 16,500 cases of the Kotex Natural Balance Security Tampons failed an inspection test and were to be destroyed. Some of the tampons tested positive for things like increased levels of bacteria, the presence of metallic particles or imperfect raw materials.

Kimberly-Clark Corp. Spokesman Bob Brand the company sent the tainted tampons to a company in Oklahoma to be destroyed, but somewhere along the way thieves stole some of the cases and sold them to retailers.

However, the tampons in the 2012 incident were part of Kotex’s Natural Balance Security line of tampons, and not the U by Kotex variety.

On 23 September 2015, a representative from Kimberly-Clark responded to our inquiry about the photographs and said the product in question was en route to one of the company’s facilities for testing:

We are aware of the report from a consumer in Canada that she discovered a foreign object — metal in her estimation — in her U by Kotex tampon.

Nothing is more important to our U by Kotex team than the quality and safety of our products and the well-being of the women who use them. Reports of this nature are extremely rare and want are working directly with the consumer to retrieve the product and investigate this situation thoroughly. We should have the product back in the next day or so and we will immediately begin our investigation

[Within a few days] we will be able to provide a more complete response once our investigation is complete.

On 24 September 2015, a Kotex representative responded to our inquiry and informed us that they had received and examined the object supplied by the complainant, that it appeared to be a portion of a thumbtack or push pin, and that there was no fathomable way in which such an object could have been inadvertently introduced into a tampon or gone undetected during the manufacturing process. That leaves open the possibility that someone might have inserted the fragment into the tampon after it left the manufacturing facility:

As I mentioned in my earlier note, complaints of this nature are extremely rare and U by Kotex tampons undergo a number of rigorous quality inspections as part of meeting regulatory standards, including being scanned by metal detection equipment.

We have been working directly with the consumer who reported finding a piece of metal in her tampon. We retrieved the tampon in question and initiated a comprehensive internal review of our production process. Our logs indicate that our metal detection equipment was operating effectively at each checkpoint when this particular lot code was manufactured. I would note that the product would have gone through three separate metal detection checks before shipping out of our facility, including one after the product was packaged and sealed.

Further, a review of the manufacturing quality data showed that there were no product defects reported for the lot/shift related to a defect of this type.

After investigating this situation, and examining the object, we have concluded that the foreign object did not enter the product during the manufacturing process. The object found by the consumer appears to be similar to the metal portion of a thumbtack or push pin and would have been quickly detected by our equipment. Further, there is no corresponding metal material in the equipment used to manufacture the U by Kotex tampons. We will continue to work with the consumer to understand as much as we can about what happened and why.

Last updated:    25 September 2015

Originally published:    21 September 2015