Yes, it’s a political issue…

First, there were several stories of toothpaste containing diethylene glycol (DEG) in China.

OK, well, we have the FDA here right? They investigate stuff like this, so we are safe right?

Well, in a slightly older post, I had a quote from the mother of a child who was nearly killed (and still suffers kidney damage, and may yet die) from an infection she got from eating some fresh vegetables. It bears repeating:

“You live in the United States of America and this isn’t supposed to happen. There is an assumption that everything is going to be O.K., that someone must have checked this out, but it is not the case.”

Then, next, there were some stories of imported toothpaste containing DEG, having arrived in USA, from China:

China-made Shir toothpaste recalled; may contain poison
Associated Press
Jun. 11, 2007 03:23 PM

MIAMI – A South Florida company recalled toothpaste it imported from China and distributed to wholesalers, saying Monday that the product may contain a poisonous chemical.

Gold City Enterprise LLC said the roughly 170,000 recalled Shir toothpaste products may contain diethylene glycol, a thickening agent used in antifreeze and as a cheaper substitute for the sweetener glycerin. No injuries or illnesses have been reported.

Consumers were asked to stop using the products and throw them away, or return them to the stores where they bought them. The company distributed the toothpaste in the South Florida area. The toothpaste brands are Shir Fresh Mint Flouride, Shir Fresh Ice Shir Mint Flouride and Shir Fresh Cool Shir Mint Flouride.

Then, next, we have stories about counterfeit Colgate Toothpaste with DEG:

Counterfeit Toothpaste Believed Toxic

POSTED: 9:03 pm EDT June 14, 2007
UPDATED: 10:09 pm EDT June 14, 2007
WASHINGTON — Discount stores that scour the world for deals sometimes give shoppers something they didn’t bargain for: bogus products of uncertain origin that may even be dangerous.

A prime example: this week’s recall of toothpaste believed to be both counterfeit and toxic.

Government tests on the toothpaste, bought by federal investigators at a discount store in Maryland, revealed it contained diethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze, a Food and Drug Administration spokesman said Thursday. Although the toothpaste was labeled as “Colgate,” Colgate-Palmolive Co. said the imported 5-ounce tubes were falsely packaged counterfeits.

The investigation though, isn’t part of any regular inspection regime in the USA, but apparently resulted from a tip from abroad:

And FDA investigators have been stopping Chinese toothpaste imports at the border and scouring the shelves of discount stores where it’s typically sold, after receiving reports from abroad that it can contain diethylene glycol. The South African “Colgate” got caught in that dragnet, FDA spokesman Doug Arbesfeld said.

Subsequent FDA testing showed the South African-labeled toothpaste contained 3 percent diethylene glycol by weight. The chemical, used as a lower-cost substitute for the sweetener glycerin, previously has been found in Chinese-made toothpaste also sold in discount stores.

And what country originated that tip?

(AP) Nicaragua Seizes Chinese-Made Toothpaste
May 28, 2007, 9:45 am
Associated Press Writer
MANAGUA, Nicaragua

Nicaraguan police seized 6,000 tubes of a Chinese-made toothpaste suspected of containing a chemical that killed at least 51 people in nearby Panama last year, the health minister said Sunday.

All U.S. imports of Chinese toothpaste were halted last week to test for diethylene glycol _ a chemical commonly used in antifreeze and brake fluid.

Nicaraguan Health Minister Maritza Cuan told Channel 8 the seized toothpaste, labeled “Excel” and “Mr. Cool,” had been smuggled in from Panama.

“What we have to do now is recover all the toothpaste imported into the country so it doesn’t damage the population,” Cuan said.

In Nicaragua, the toothpaste was seized from a vast market in the capital. Some vendors also were hawking it door to door, Cuan said. The product also could have been smuggled from Panama to Honduras and Colombia.

Now, it’s really great that the USA and Nicaragua compare notes and that this DEG-containing toothpaste was discovered, but, my questions are:

1. If Nicaragua hadn’t broken this, how long would it have taken the American FDA to discover the tainted toothpaste? Would they have ever discovered it?

2. How long has this been going on? Is anyone testing say, two-year old toothpaste to see if this was commonly done in the past?

Oh, and I almost forgot: Let’s give some time to the Chinese trade envoy. We should listen very carefully to what he says:

Chinese envoy warns of toothpaste panic

By Steve Hirsch
June 13, 2007

China’s second-ranking diplomat in Washington yesterday rejected criticism of his country over tainted toothpaste and other questionable food and drug exports but said his government is taking a series of corrective measures.

Some people are trying to politicize the issue, Chinese Embassy Minister and Deputy Chief of Mission Zheng Zeguang told The Washington Times.

Yes, healthy food and medicines are a political issue!

Yes, it’s a political issue…

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