- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2008

“Who’s your daddy?” A test kit to answer that question is now available at the nearest Rite Aid store.

A new swab-the-mouth DNA Paternity Test Collection Kit from Identigene costs about $30, plus a $119 fee for the mail-in lab processing. Confidential results are available in a few days.

The kit is the first to be sold over the counter and marks a “completely new channel for marketing DNA tests,” said Doug Fogg, chief operating officer of Identigene, based in Salt Lake City.

The kit’s test results are not admissible in court, he said.

But while Identigene also sells a more expensive paternity test that is legally admissible, test-marketing of the new kit in California, Washington and Oregon shows there is a demand for it, Mr. Fogg said.

It’s convenient, affordable and confidential, and provides “peace of mind for people who are curious and really want to know,” he said.

If paternity tests like this are available for around $150 at the retail level, then government agencies, which could bulk-order the tests at even cheaper rates, “simply have no excuse” for not conducting a test before they establish paternity, said Ronald Henry, a children’s advocacy lawyer in the District.

“Children ought to be allowed to know who are their biological parents,” he said. “We should not be concealing truth.”

Carnell Smith, a paternity-fraud opponent, said the new tests will help child-support enforcement.

“It will make it clear to those [mothers] who are accidentally or intentionally labeling the wrong man as the biological father that the window of opportunity to commit paternity fraud — and get away with it — is rapidly closing,” said Mr. Smith, who is head of U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud, which sells paternity tests at PaternityFraud.com.

Mr. Fogg said about 60 percent of kit purchasers are female, and 30 percent of purchasers said they were getting it for someone else.

People bought the kits for many reasons, he added. Men wanted to know if they were a father, women wanted to know the paternity of her child and adults wanted to verify the identity of a parent.

In a product testimonial, Natalie Maynes of Vancouver, Wash., said she had waited months for the results of a paternity test she filed with government caseworkers soon after her son was born. But after buying a kit, “five days later, we had our results,” she said.

Each paternity kit provides only one test result, so a putative father, mother and child must each collect a sample, which is obtained by rubbing a swab on the inside of a cheek for 30 seconds. The samples are then mailed to the company with signed consent forms.

As of yesterday, the Identigene kit is available in more than 4,300 Rite Aids in 30 states and the District, as well as Meijer stores in the Midwest. New York is not included in the lineup because the state requires court orders or prescriptions for diagnostic kits, and the paternity kit is not compliant with that law.

Mr. Fogg said he doesn’t think the new kit will hamper television shows that depend on paternity testing for ratings.

This kit “is not for prime time,” Mr. Fogg said with a chuckle. “It’s for the rest of us who just want to know, and don’t need the rest of the world to share in that experience.”

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