Are Latex-Free Condoms Really Latex-Free?
Soon, you might have a harder time finding a box of condoms marked “latex-free:” The FDA recently announced new recommendations suggesting that products no longer be labeled “latex-free.” Why? Right now there is no known test to prove that items contain absolutely no latex proteins—even the kind from natural rubber latex, which is what some people are allergic to. Because the term “latex-free” might lead consumers to think that products have been subjected to some kind of testing to verify the claim, the FDA feels it could be misleading. That said, companies know when they are using natural rubber latex to make their products—and they have to label that explicitly on the box.
Don’t freak out just yet if you or your dude has a latex allergy. The products themselves aren’t changing, so if you’ve been using “non-latex” condoms without a hitch, you don’t need to worry. Products like condoms or rubber gloves that do contain natural latex (the type that causes reactions) have always been required to say so on their labels, says Morgan Liscinsky from the FDA Office of Media Affairs. But here’s where it gets tricky: If a product doesn’t contain natural rubber latex, the manufacturer can pretty much put whatever they want (including “latex-free” or “non-latex”) on the packaging. These terms could technically be untrue, though; the products may still contain synthetic latex proteins or parts of the natural rubber latex that don’t cause allergic reactions.
So why is the FDA cracking down on labeling semantics? “We’re just making it more scientifically accurate,” says Liscinsky. Keep in mind that these new guidelines are merely a suggestion for manufacturers. Items that keep the term “latex-free” on their packaging might still contain some latex proteins—just not the kind that is going to give anyone dry or itchy skin. To be 100 percent safe, though, check your favorite brand of non-latex condoms to make sure the label doesn’t say that it’s made with natural rubber latex.
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