In light of the recent scare over poisonous chemicals found in toothpaste exports from China, the US Food and Drug Administration has advised consumers to avoid buying any toothpaste labeled as made in China.
The move follows reports that authorities in Panama, the Dominican Republic and Australia have found diethylene glycol (DEG), a compound used in anti-freeze and known to have been a source of a number of mass poisonings, usually from adulterated medicines.
This backs up a move made by the FDA two weeks ago to block all consignments of toothpaste at US borders until tests show that such imports are categorically safe.
Because of international free trade agreements this means that consignments of imported China toothpaste have been legally allowed into the US, but FDA officials are now particularly worried about gray market and counterfeit products that may have entered the country through illegal and unregulated channels.
In an officical statement, the FDA said that, "Consumers should examine toothpaste products for labeling that says the product is made in China", adding that any such products not containing ingredients labels should be thrown away.
The authority also said that in cases were there was no labeling, or that the source was not certain, it had concerns such oral care products might contain 'diethylene glycol,' also known as 'diglycol' or 'diglycol stearate.'
Although no poisonings have been reported in the US from toothpaste to date, the FDA said that it has identified several toothpaste brands from China known to contain the chemical and has included them on an import alert.
The FDA has identified manufacturers of these products as being Goldcredit International Enterprises Limited; Goldcredit International Trading Company Limited; and Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals Company Limited.
These companies produce toothpastes that have typically Western packaging designs, bearing brand names such as Cooldent Flouride, Everfresh Toothpaste and Clean Rite Toothpaste, which are sold at low-cost retail outlets throughout the US.
So far FDA inspectors say they have identified and detained one shipment of toothpaste at the US border, which they claim contained about 3 percent DEG by weight.
Likewise, the authorities also say that they found China-made toothpastes containing up to 3 - 4 percent DEG in US retail stores, adding the product that contained the most DEG did not even list the substance on the product label.
The two biggest toothpaste manufacturers in North America - Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive, have both said that they will not be affected by the block, as none of their toothpastes are currently imported from China.