Toxic Toothpaste Made in China Is
Found in U.S.
By WALT BOGDANICH
Published: June 2, 2007
Consumers were advised yesterday to discard all
toothpaste made in China after federal health
officials said they found Chinese-made toothpaste
containing a poison used in some antifreeze in three
locations: Miami, the Port of Los Angeles and Puerto
Although there are no reports of anyone being harmed
by the toothpaste, the Food and Drug Administration
warned that the Chinese products had a “low but
meaningful risk of toxicity and injury” to children
and people with kidney or liver disease.
The United States is the seventh country to find
tainted Chinese toothpaste within its borders in
Agency officials said they found toothpaste
containing a small amount of diethylene glycol, a
sweet, syrupy poison, at a Dollar Plus retail store
in Miami, sold under the brand name ShiR Fresh Mint
Fluoride Paste. The F.D.A. also identified nine
other brands of Chinese toothpaste that contain
diethylene glycol, some with concentrations of 3
percent to 4 percent.
Previously, only a few brands had been identified by
health officials around the world as containing
diethylene glycol and all of them listed the
chemical on the label.
But diethylene glycol was not listed on the label of
the toothpaste found in the Miami store. Its
presence was detected only because the F.D.A. began
testing imported Chinese toothpaste last month. That
precaution was prompted by the discovery in Latin
America of tens of thousands of tubes of tainted
toothpaste made in China.
Over the years, counterfeiters have found it
profitable to substitute diethylene glycol for its
chemical cousin, glycerin, which is usually more
expensive. Glycerin is a safe additive commonly
found in food, drugs and household products. In
toothpaste, glycerin is used as a thickening agent.
Chinese regulators said Thursday that their
investigation of toothpaste manufacturers there had
found they had done nothing wrong. Chinese officials
also said that while small amounts of diethylene
glycol could be safely used in toothpaste, new
controls would be imposed on its use in toothpaste.
The F.D.A. said diethylene glycol in any amount was
not suitable for use in toothpaste.
The agency said two Chinese companies, Goldcredit
International Trading and the Suzhou City Jinmao
Daily Chemicals Company, made the tainted brands
found in the United States.
In a statement yesterday, federal health officials
called diethylene-glycol poisoning “an important
public safety issue.” The Panamanian government last
year inadvertently mixed the poison made in China
into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine, killing at
least 100 people, prosecutors there said.
In that case, Chinese regulators acknowledged on
Thursday that two companies in China had “engaged in
some misconduct” in the way they labeled and sold
the diethylene glycol, but they said a Panamanian
importer bore most of the blame.
Last month, after publicity over the poisoning
deaths from the cold medicine, a consumer in Panama
noticed that toothpaste in a store listed diethylene
glycol as an ingredient and notified the
authorities. Eventually it was traced to China, and
since then countries around the world have been on
the lookout for the product.
In addition to the United States and Panama, tainted
toothpaste has been found in Australia, the
Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Honduras and
Chinese exports of toothpaste to the United States
account for $3.3 million out of a $2 billion-dollar
market in America, F.D.A. officials said. “The scope
of this is fairly small when you look at all the
toothpaste that is consumed in the U.S.,” Doug
Arbesfeld, an agency spokesman, said.
The agency said Chinese-made brands with diethylene
glycol were typically sold at low-cost, “bargain”
retail outlets. A man answering the phone at the
Dollar Plus store in Miami, identified by federal
officials as selling the Chinese toothpaste, said he
did not want to be interviewed because his English
was poor. The man, who did not give his name, said
federal inspectors came to his store yesterday.
Mr. Arbesfeld said that six tubes were confiscated
there and that several more were found at the
store’s distributor. Those tubes were destroyed.
F.D.A. officials also said they had confiscated
several brands of toothpaste at the Port of Los
Angeles and at a retail store in Puerto Rico.
The agency said toothpaste containing diethylene
glycol was sold under the names Cooldent Fluoride,
Cooldent Spearmint, Cooldent ICE, Dr. Cool,
Superdent, Clean Rite, Oralmax Extreme, Oral Bright,
Bright Max, and ShiR Fresh Mint.