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Counterfeit Toothpaste: Fights More Than Just Tooth Decay

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Counterfeit Toothpaste: Not Worth It

Counterfeit Toothpaste: Fights More Than Just Tooth Decay

September 10, 2007
By: Shelagh McNally for Dental1

Scrimping on your toothpaste can be lethal. If you’ve recently bought discount toothpaste, you should consider replacing it immediately. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada are advising consumers to discard any toothpaste made in China after finding low levels of diethylene glycol (DEF), a chemical used in a variety of solvents and anti-freeze.
Take Action
  • Find out more about the toothpaste recall at the USA FDA website.
  • Consumers can report adverse reactions or quality problems experienced with the use of these products to FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program. Or call toll-free at 1-800-332-1088.
  • Colgate-Palmolive Company: Consumers who suspect they may have bought a counterfeit product can call Colgate's toll-free number 1-800-468-6502.
  • DentFresh: DentFresh Fluoride Mint Toothpaste. Contact DentFresh at [email protected] or at 305-677-9938 for more information.

  • Lax regulations and globalization have let unscrupulous companies use DEG as a cheap substitute for the more expensive glycerin, a safe additive commonly found in food, drugs and household products. In toothpaste, glycerin is used as a thickening agent.

    There’s no disputing that DEG is an indispensable chemical; it is used as a coolant for anti-freeze, as a solvent in resins, dyes, oil and plastics, and is a component in some hydraulic fluids and brake fluids. But, it’s also not meant for human consumption, despite its sweet syrupy taste.

    In 2006, 100 people in Panama died from DEG poisoning after ingesting cough syrup tainted with the toxin. Investigators are looking at another 265 deaths for possible connections. DEG has also been responsible for mass poisonings in China, Haiti, Bangladesh, Argentina, Nigeria and India as well as in the United States. The infamous 1937 Elixir Sulfanilamide disaster, in which 107 people died after taking sulfanilamide dissolved in diethylene glycol, lead to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.

    DEG poisoning begins with kidney failure, followed by a shut down of the central nervous system resulting in paralysis and difficulty breathing. Most victims do not recover. Although there are no U.S. reports of anyone being harmed by the tainted toothpaste, the FDA warns that the chemical has a "low but meaningful risk of toxicity and injury," especially to children and people with kidney or liver disease.

    Even trusted brands may not be safe. Fake Colgate toothpaste laced with DEG has been found in four states: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Fortunately, the imitations are easy to spot since they come labeled as a five-ounce or 100 ml. tube, a size not made or sold by Colgate in the United States. Tubes may also have several misspelled words including: "isclinically," "SOUTH AFRLCA" and "South African Dental Assoxiation." Canadians should be extra cautious since some of the toothpaste has been given a Canadian label. Suspect brands include Colgate Fluoride Toothpaste Herbal and Colgate Fluoride Toothpaste Maximum Cavity. Health Canada is advising consumers to check for an eight-digit drug identification number that indicates the product has been assessed for safety and quality.

    Stay safe, buy your toothpaste from a trusted drug or grocery store, and pay the full price.

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