Saturday, June 02, 2007

Import Alert: Put Down That ToothAntifreeze Paste!

Taking a hiatus from my hiatus, I'm popping into the blogosphere for a moment to urge everyone to look closely at his toothpaste tube this morning: if there is any mention of it having been imported from China--or if it's one of the brands specifically mentioned by the FDA in their latest warning--you're strongly advised to avoid using it, as it may contain diethylene glycol (also known as antifreeze):

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 Rico.

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 recent weeks.

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.
You can see the entire list of adulterated (and potentially-adulterated) brands here.

Adding insult to injury (let us not forget the countless number of human beings around the world, many of them children, who died after ingesting diethylene glycol-adulterated cough syryp) is the cavalier attitude of Chinese officials. Here, as they say, is the money quote:

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.

Question: why does the United States afford Most Favored Nation trading status to a country that not only places a lower value on safety--indeed, on human life--than we do, but is quite bald-faced in its admission of same? Chinese officials also said that while small amounts of diethylene glycol could be safely used in toothpaste...(!) I mean, I'd much rather see our government get tough on all imports from all countries, requiring that, at a minimum, U.S. health and safety standards be met--and instituting severe penalties, up to and including full-on embargoes, if necessary--than have to witness the kind of slavish genuflection we've been seeing America perform at the altar of free trade lo these recent months.

Antifreeze in toothpaste? For the love of all that is sane, FDA, put a stop to all Chinese food and drug imports until such time as that nation's officials can demonstrate, provably, that they take health and safety standards seriously--at least as seriously as American families, if not American regulatory agencies, are taking all this.

Also at Shakesville.

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