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Old May 24th, 2007, 07:31 PM   #1
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US checks toothpaste for toxins

Health officials in the United States say they are checking all shipments of toothpaste imported from China for contamination with toxic chemicals.

Panama and the Dominican Republic have reported finding diethylene glycol, a chemical used in engine coolants, in toothpaste from China.

The toothpaste scare is the latest involving products from China.

Earlier this year, contaminated pet food ingredients killed a number of cats and dogs in North America.

The toxic chemical, melamine, was found in wheat gluten exports from China for use in pet food, prompting a recall of at least 100 pet food brands.

The tainted wheat gluten was even thought to have made its way into livestock feed.

Low-cost substitute

Cough syrup containing diethylene glycol originating from China killed more than 50 people in Panama last year.

The New York Times said a Chinese chemical maker had sold the industrial-grade chemical as glycerine, which is often used as a moistener in products from toothpaste to soap and cosmetics.

Diethylene glycol is sometimes used as a low-cost substitute for glycerine and Chinese toothpaste makers have said small amounts of the chemical are harmless in toothpaste.

"We are going to be sampling and testing all shipments of toothpaste that come from China," said Doug Arbesfeld, a spokesman for the US Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA says China is the second-largest exporter of toothpaste to the US after Canada.

Food safety investigators in Panama said two brands of toothpaste were imported illegally from China through a free-trade zone.

Chinese officials say they are investigating the claims.

The Dominican Republic and Panama have pulled thousands of tubes of Chinese toothpaste brands Excel and Mr Cool from store shelves.

Beijing recently pledged to clean up its tainted food and drug industry after the series of safety scares. The subject was raised by the US in bilateral trade talks this week.

The former head of China's State Food and Drug Administration is facing trial, accused of taking large bribes to approve untested medicines.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6686627.stm


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