Singapore mother horrified by needle-like objects in cotton-wool

SINGAPORE - When Ms Isabel Fernandez wiped her baby son's abdomen with wet cotton wool last week, he started screaming in pain.

Red scratches had appeared on the five-month-old's tummy.

And when the mother checked the cotton wool, she was shocked to find a sharp needle-like object inside, she said.

The cotton wool, sold under the Tollyjoy brand, was purchased from Kiddy Palace at Parkway Parade a week before.

Ms Fernandez, 40, said she found four more sharp metallic objects in the packet of cotton wool.

The Spanish national quickly e-mailed Tollyjoy and was given an apology. She was also offered a product exchange, but felt the firm could have at least offered to pay for a doctor's consultation.

"I was very upset obviously," she told The Straits Times. "What if I had used the cotton wool on my son's eyes or his face?"

Ms Fernandez, who works for an online travel agency, said she wanted other mothers to be aware of this case.

"Singapore is known for safety all over the world. What happened here does not support the strict control and safety this product should have," she added.

The Tollyjoy brand of cotton wool, which costs $4 at stores here, is marketed specifically for babies. Its packaging claims that it is made from "surgical grade cotton" and is "soft and hygienic for baby's tender skin".

Tollyjoy Baby Products, a Singapore company, said it has since recalled this particular batch of the product.

The batch has also been inspected with metal detectors, said the company's sales and marketing manager, Ms Irene Yeo, 36.

She added that no other metal objects were found and that its supplier typically conducts such tests during the manufacturing process.

"We did a product recall as a precautionary measure. We are not sure where the contamination happened. Anybody could have put in those metallic objects," she said. "The company views the matter seriously and will continue to strengthen its quality inspections."

Ms Yeo also said the manufacture of the cotton wool is outsourced to a company in Malaysia.

Its products are sealed there before being exported to Singapore.

Over here, they are stored in Tollyjoy's warehouse in Changi, and then sent by truck to major supermarkets and department stores. The company does not have any immediate plans to stop working with the Malaysian manufacturer.

Kiddy Palace, a children's and maternity products retailer, declined comment yesterday.

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA), which regulates the import of medical products, said it is investigating the case. A spokesman added that the agency is working closely with the company to ensure public health and safety.

Ms Jen Chua, a mother of three, was shocked to hear of the case.

"I thought all these things usually happen in less-developed countries," said the administrative assistant, 41. "It's quite frightening. Hopefully, more checks will be done from now on."

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