The Chinese toothpaste scare that had Food and Drug Administration inspectors scrambling two weeks ago has now spread to potentially deadly tubes of counterfeit toothpaste being sold under the Colgate brand name.
The Colgate-Palmolive company warned consumers this morning that falsely labeled Colgate tubes may contain diethylene glycol (DEG).
DEG is a deadly chemical found in antifreeze and it was the same chemical discovered in tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste. It also killed at least 51 Panamanians a year ago when it was used in cough syrup.
The counterfeit tubes were discovered in discount stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey.
The tubes claim to be products of South Africa.
The counterfeit toothpaste can be easily recognized because it is labeled as 'Manufactured in South Africa,' according to a Colgate press release. Colgate does not import toothpaste into the United States from South Africa. In addition, the counterfeit packages examined so far have several misspellings including: 'isclinically,' 'SOUTH AFRLCA' and 'South African Dental Assoxiation.'
Two days before the Chinese toothpaste scare, a ConsumerAffairs.com investigation uncovered the sale of illegally imported tubes of toothpaste at discount stores. This apparently widespread problem exposes a potentially flawed FDA inspection network.
We discovered 17 tubes of illegally imported toothpaste being sold in D.C.-area discount stores. The tubes were all manufactured in other countries and are not intended for sale in the U.S. One illegal tube of toothpaste was from China and six were from South Africa.
The tubes were of all different makes, but nine were branded as Colgate. None of the tubes contained the spelling errors the Colgate press release identified.
The tubes are illegal because they do not follow the FDAs over-the-counter drug labeling requirements. Two tubes didnt even list all the ingredients while many of the others are in foreign languages.
After almost three weeks of ignoring many of our questions, the FDA told ConsumerAffairs.com that companies who manufacture, market and distribute the toothpastes could all face prosecution for selling the illegal products.
Over-the-counter drug products that do not comply with FDA labeling requirements are misbranded and may also be unapproved new drugs, both of which violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, FDA spokeswoman Veronica Castro wrote in an e-mail. Enforcement regarding products that violate the FDCA include regulatory correspondence, seizure, injunction, and in some cases criminal prosecution.
Colgate representative Tom Paolella said regardless of the tubes origin, all Colgate products are safe.
Crest representatives have not returned two phone calls and two e-mails.
Among the worst retail offenders in our investigation was discount store chain, National Wholesale Liquidators, which has not returned two e-mails and does not answer the phone.
Consumers who suspect they may have purchased a counterfeit product should file a complaint with ConsumerAffairs.com and call Colgate's toll-free number at (800) 468-6502.
Earlier this week, a Florida importer recalled 170,000 tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste that may contain DEG. a deadly chemical.
DEG killed 51 residents of Panama a year ago after it was found in Chinese-imported cough syrup.
The recalled toothpastes come in 6.4 ounce and 9 ounce tubes and are titled:
• Shir Fresh Mint Fluoride
• Shir Fresh Mint Fluoride Paste
• Shir Fresh Ice Shir Mint Fluoride Toothpaste
Although no injuries or illnesses have been reported, consumers who have the product are urged to either return it the store they purchased it or discard it.