Monday, July 09, 2007

Toxic Toothpaste from China - Update

You've likely become aware that the Food and Drug Administration so far has banned 23 brands of toothpaste produced in China from export to US markets (link contains brand names of all 23). The toothpaste contains diethylene glycol (DEG), a chemical poison that causes kidney failure and death. The chemical is used as anti-freeze and as an industrial solvent. The cheaper DEG is likely used as a substitute or cutting agent for the more expensive and entirely safe food additive glycerin.

U.S. citizens who don't try to bring tubes of toothpaste onto international airline flights, thinking they'll buy some toothpaste at their foreign destination, might might want to check the FDA list naming brands and manufacturers of the tainted products, and locations where such unsafe products are known to be available.

Summary of the FAKE COLGATE toothpaste crisis is offered at WebIntel.

FDA has advised that glycerin, used as a humectant in cosmetics, and
sweetening agent in many foods, medicines or other ingestible products, be tested for presence of DEG.

The disturbing tale of tainted Chinese glycerin and its travels around the world is told by Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker in this very informative New York Times article. DEG used as an adulterant of safe/safer compounds have resulted in other mass deaths, listed in this good Wikipedia entry.

IT HAPPENED IN THE USA ONCE.--DEG added to the bacterial/strep medicine Sulfanilamide was responsible for 107 deaths in the U.S. in 1937. Read an article on the FDA website with the gruesome title "Taste of Raspberries, Taste of Death - the 1937 Elixir Sulfanilamide Incident" here.

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