Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Who’s Checking Kuwait’s Toothpaste?

US checks toothpaste for toxins

Toothpaste is the latest Chinese export to raise safety concerns
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 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.

May 2007 China probes reports that contaminated toothpaste was sent to Central America
March 2007 Melamine is found in wheat gluten exports from China for use in pet food, prompting a recall of at least 100 pet food brands
Nov 2006 A dye farmers fed to ducks to make their eggs look fresher is found to contain cancer-causing properties and 5,000 ducks are culled
August 2006 About 40 people in Beijing contract meningitis after eating partially cooked snails at a chain of restaurants

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.

From today’s BBC News.

May 24, 2007 - Posted by | Community, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, News, Social Issues, Technical Issue, Uncategorized


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

    Holy crap! 50 people? That seems like a really high number to me. If 50 people in the US were killed by their imported cough syrup there would be a major sh*t storm in the media, probably leading to congressional hearings and a new trade policy.

    Comment by Earthling | May 24, 2007 | Reply

  2. I heard this report on tv this morning, just as I was brushing my teeth. Not pleasant.
    Today’s news also reports of yet one more dog-food brand being recalled due to melamine contamination.
    Diethylene glycol in cough syrup – unbelievable.
    Cannot help but wonder about the problems yet to be discovered. Disturbing.

    Comment by SparklePlenty | May 24, 2007 | Reply

  3. I live in China, so you can imagine the amount of suspicious product surrounding me at any one time! I tend to eat only the fruits & vegetables that come out of the fields surrounding my house. Nothing processed for me, and I am sure I am still at risk.

    I have a Chinese friend who is a doctor. She told me that they have problems ALL THE TIME at the hospital where she works because of fraudulent medications. She just shrugs her shoulders and says that the corruption is terrible, but they are all helpless.

    Corruption, which is the usual cause behind all of this contamination (someone at the factory wants to use cheaper ingredients, regardless of their makeup in order to pocket the money difference.), is one of China’s biggest problems and is pervasive at the local level. The central government is trying to crack down, but due to the nature of the system, local officials are ignoring the central party and getting rich. It is truly shameful.

    The problems that will more than likely prevent China from continuing her magnificent growth at a fast pace? Corruption, environmental degradation, the widening gap between rich and poor, and an overall loss of the morals and values that had enriched the country for 5,000 years.

    Very sad.

    Comment by global gal | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  4. Global Gal, every time we are on at the same time, I am reminded how you are half the world away – while it is early morning here, it is late late at night in China.

    Corruption and lawlessness. . . in Thursday’s paper here, we had two fascinating articles. One had to do with a schwarma stand using FRESH cat meat – there are countless street cats here, and I guess they were making use of a plentiful resource, but it makes me totally ill. Fortunately customers complained about the taste and someone investigated and shut it down.

    Next, a “domesticated lion” escaped from his pen at a Kuwaiti’s house and it took the keeper, the police and the fire department to round him up and get him back in the cage.

    I have one of those “domesticated” street cats. Every now and then I see a flash of his origins. I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “domesticated” lion, but . . . there are also NO restrictions on what kind of animal you can have penned here in Kuwait. It’s tragic for the lion, too, I can’t imagine what he has to suffer.

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  5. Sparkle – while you were brushing your teeth? LLLLOOOOOLLLLLLL!

    Earthling – You are right, 50 people in a country the size of Panama is astounding. If it weren’t BBC, I wouldn’t give it so much credence, but . . .

    I think we all had better be watching the labels carefully, and going for the lesser processed items. Like brushing with (YUKKKKKK! ) Baking soda!

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  6. All I can say is eeww. Cat meat Schwarma. (Even that image can’t stop me from salivating at the thought of a fresh hot schwarma and a little bag of pickles from the stand by our old house in Abu Halifa.)

    Comment by Global Gal | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  7. We have yet to find our stand. We got a huge shock coming to Kuwait – we would ask for schwarma or felafel sandwiches and it came on HOT DOG buns, and not very good ones most of the time. We had OUR place in Doha that made fresh hot pockety rolls with sesame seeds on the outside and the rolls were as good as the felafel or chicken stuff inside. I know the place for us is out there somewhere.

    Do you remember the name of your stop in Abu Halifa? Maybe it’s still there?

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  8. I read this and immediately checked my toothpaste… thankfully its not made in China 😀

    I don’t understand why China would not make sure it monitors what goes into the commodities it produces.

    LOL – if China gets angry – we’re all in trouble, it doesn’t have to wage a war, all it has to do is put the wrong stuff in toothpaste!

    Comment by cixousianpanic | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  9. Yes, I heard the news while brushing! Ick. Had already used over half the tube, so decided not to even look, figuring I’d already know if there was a problem – LOL indeed! Can you believe it?! Head in the sand. Considering how many things, locally and globally, there are to be afraid of, its amazing we find any joy in life at all. BUT WE DO, despite the crazies. We find the great little Schwarma stands of life….

    Comment by SparklePlenty | May 25, 2007 | Reply

  10. Cixousian – What I loved about your comment was that the smiley face had this huge white grin! and yes, lol, they could be killing us softly in a hundred ways we don’t even think about. Toothpicks! those little beach shoes! chinese silk! Who knows?

    Sparkle – I have been watching for some flashes of light . . .

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 26, 2007 | Reply

  11. I’m an Arm & Hammer toothpaste kinda guy, used to be a Crest kid tho! *sparkly smile*. Not worried, if I’m going Chinese, it’d be Tang Chao or China House (mm..chow mien!).

    Anyhow, maybe they’re trying to get to Prez Bush? The ‘choke on the pretzel’ thing didn’t work, so why not toothpaste? Or false teeth cleaning tablets if his teeth are false.

    Cat shawerma? Holy Cat..err..Cow! Did you know that the Chinese served human meat in a lot of their restaurants for some time until they finally got busted?

    Noticed how everything points to China? China this, China that. It’s an unnatural phenomenon.

    Comment by Mini Я. | May 26, 2007 | Reply

  12. “The ‘choke on the pretzel’ thing didn’t work, so why not toothpaste?”

    *dying laughing*

    Great point. Subtle strategy, so subtle you’re the first to notice!

    Chinese served HUMAN meat??? No!! I never heard that. That makes me totally sick. Even sicker than the cat schwarma. Aaaaacckkkkkkk.

    Comment by intlxpatr | May 26, 2007 | Reply

  13. […] Your Labels On May 24, BBC reported on fake toothpastes found in Panama and the Dominican Republic. Today’s news has […]

    Pingback by Check Your Labels « Here There and Everywhere | June 14, 2007 | Reply

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