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So you want to know more about condom testing? Finally, a subject close to my heart!
If you spend any time looking at condom packages, you'll come across a lot of phrases like "individually electronically tested", "maximum reliability", and so on. What does this all mean, and what is actually required of condom manufacturers? Curious? Good.
Here is a quick introduction to how condoms are really tested.
Different manufacturers have different testing equipment. For this reason, the exact methods of performing the tests will vary somewhat from plant to plant. The standards, however, are the same for every company selling condoms in the U.S. Overseas manufacturers must also comply with the standards and they are routinely audited by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to ensure compliance.
First, every condom is visually inspected and tested for pinholes using an electronic test. In this test, the condom is pulled over a metal form called a mandrel. The condom is then placed into the presence of an intense electrical field, which is created in air or water depending on the equipment used by the manufacturer. Because rubber does not conduct electricity, no electricity should reach the metal mandrel under the condom. If the electricity reaches the metal mandrel through a pinhole, it indicates the presence of a pinhole. Any condom failing this test is discarded (machines discard the failures automatically). This is the only test performed on every single condom: this is what manufacturers mean when they refer to "individual" or "electronic" testing.
Other tests are performed by taking a random sampling of a large manufacturing lot and testing only those condoms in the samples. Using statistical analysis, it is possible to reach accurate conclusions about the large lot by testing a small fraction of the condoms, as long as the samples are chosen at random. This sampling occurs at various points along the manufacturing process. The samples from the lot are tested for dimensions, tensile properties, air burst properties, leakage, and package integrity. Condoms are randomly sampled from each lot in accordance to a sampling plan defined by the standards. Each lot is tested and must comply with the standards passing all specified acceptance criteria before it is released for distribution.