Dollarama has pulled two products from their stores across the country after tests by CBC News revealed unacceptable levels of bacteria in cosmetic wipes and excessive bacteria growth in baby wipes.
The test results show Merida Cleansing Wipes purchased from a Dollarama store in Winnipeg contain Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause skin infections.
Women commonly use the wipes on the eyes and mouth to remove mascara and lipstick. Health Canada guidelines ban Staphylococcus aureus from cosmetic products.
Toronto dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll told CBC News that Staphylococcus aureus infections can lead to impetigo, boils and folliculitis, while severe cases can cause blood infections.
Carroll said people with healthy skin are not at great risk, but people with eczema or broken skin can get infected.
Huggies Pure baby wipes, another brand purchased at Dollarama, have a bacteria count of 400, according to the tests. According to Health Canada, the bacteria count limit for baby products is 100.
The bacteria include Staphylococcus hominis, which can cause infection for those with a compromised immune system.
Carroll said there should be a recall of both products and a warning sent to parents, "so at the very least, if they have a child that has a skin condition, they would not be using this on already susceptible skin."
Officials with Dollarama told CBC News in an email that they are temporarily removing the products from shelves as a precautionary measure, as the company continues to investigate.
Wipes left factory problem-free, says maker
Huggies manufacturer Kimberly-Clark is also investigating the bacteria counts on its baby wipes.
Company spokesman Bob Brand told CBC News that company records show the wipes conformed to quality standards and did not have elevated levels of bacteria when they left the factory in the United Kingdom.
"The problem didn't originate with us," said Brand.
Brand said the package CBC News had tested was a diverted product, meaning it was purchased by a middle man and shipped across the ocean, only to end up at Dollarama.
Kimberly-Clark had no control over the product once it was diverted, he said.
"The concern that causes for us is when we ship and store products, we are very conscious of the environmental conditions, the heat, the moisture, how it's stored, how it's handled, to make sure we do nothing to expose it to environmental concerns that might spur the growth of bacteria," he said.
According to Brand, this is not the first time diverted wipes were found at a Dollarama store. Last October, Huggies Pure wipes from the U.K. were found at an Ontario store, he said.
Earlier this year, a shipment of Kimberly-Clark tampons that failed internal quality control tests ended up on discount store shelves in the United States. The company says the tampons were supposed to be destroyed, but they were somehow diverted and sold.
A total of 12 wipes products were tested, with two not conforming to Health Canada guidelines.
The Merida wipes are not a Kimberly-Clark product. Dollarama would not disclose the name of the manufacturer of the wipes "for competitive reasons," but the label says they were made in China.
Other wipes conformed to guidelines
A different type of Huggies wipes, purchased from a large Canadian drug store, was fine, as were seven other packages of wipes purchased from large retail chains.
Two other packages of wipes from Dollarama also conformed to Health Canada guidelines.
In an email, Health Canada told CBC News that when products are found to contain unacceptable bacterial contamination, "a risk assessment is done taking into consideration factors such as the counts of bacteria, what type of bacteria is present, as well as how the product is used and where it is applied."
The agency said non-compliant products could be recalled, and companies could be ordered to do additional safety testing.
Health Canada performs its own testing of cosmetic products and has done more than 300 tests since 2008.
In 2010-2011, nine out of 121 samples were found to be unsatisfactory.
In the last three years, four products were recalled as a result of Health Canada's sampling and evaluation program.
Dollarama spokeswoman Lyla Radmanovich told CBC News in an email that "all products sourced from our third-party suppliers and manufacturers must be in accordance with Canadian regulations, as well as with our own high standards of quality."