Feeds

Panama spits out 'poison' Chinese toothpaste

A brighter smile with diethylene glycol

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Two brands of Chinese-made toothpastes were last week pulled from shelves in Panama after authorities discovered they contained potentially-fatal diethylene glycol, AP reports.

Diethylene glycol is commonly used as a cheap substitute for glycerine, and in this case apparently to prevent the offending toothpastes from drying out.

In large doses it can be fatal, as attested by the deaths of around 50 people in Panama last year who drank a cough medicine which, instead of pharmaceutical grade glycerine, used diethylene glycol as the suspension agent.

In this case, however, the diethylene glycol was apparently clearly labelled on the "Excel" and "Mr Cool" toothpastes, supplied by the Hengxiang-based Danyang Chengshi Household Chemical Co. After a sharp-eyed customer spotted the offending ingredient, University of Panama experts confirmed it comprised around 2.5 per cent of the toothpastes - not considered enough to pose a health risk, but sufficient to provoke the powers that be to warn consumers off the products.

Danyang Chengshi Household Chemical Co's general manager Chen Yaozu confirmed to AP that his firm had exported toothpaste containing diethylene glycol to Panama, but said the chemical was "permitted under Chinese rules and was safe in small amounts". He added: "I can say I am very confident about our product's quality."

If Chen's confidence is justified, then he has nothing to fear from a Chinese probe aimed at cleaning up the image of the country's related export markets - valued at $30bn. An unnamed official at the Danyang branch of China's food and drug inspection agency "confirmed the investigation into the toothpaste suppliers, but gave no details".

The Panamanian toothpaste scare is just the latest in a long line of diethylene glycol-based health alerts. Back in 1937, the Elixir Sulfanilamide Incident claimed more than 100 lives in 15 US states, prompting the rapid introduction of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

In 1990 diethylene glycol killed 339 Bangladeshi children who took a paracetamol syrup containing contaminated glycerine, while a similar product did for 85 Haitian kids in 1995-6.

In case you were wondering just how nasty diethylene glycol can be, the Haitian cases were mostly characterised by "nonspecific febrile prodromal illness followed within two weeks by anuric renal failure, pancreatitis, hepatitis, and neurologic dysfunction progressing to coma". ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Free virtual appliance for wire data analytics
The ExtraHop Discovery Edition is a free virtual appliance will help you to discover the performance of your applications across the network, web, VDI, database, and storage tiers.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
5 critical considerations for enterprise cloud backup
Key considerations when evaluating cloud backup solutions to ensure adequate protection security and availability of enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.