Feeds

Panama spits out 'poison' Chinese toothpaste

A brighter smile with diethylene glycol

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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". ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.