Posted on Jun 29, 2007

The Georgia Department of Administrative Services (GDAS) has removed tainted Chinese toothpaste from 83 prisons, four mental homes and four juvenile detention centers, according to Rick Beal, contracts manager for GDAS.

Agent Contributed to 51 Deaths in Panama

The department’s action followed a report in the May New York Times that the tainted import was discovered in Nicaragua. MSNBC reported the shipment killed 51 people in nearby Panama. Later, Panamanian officials found Chinese toothpaste with diethylene glycol and since then, countries from Latin America to West Africa to Japan have seized the toothpaste. According to a Times report, Panama inadvertently mixed the poison made in China into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine, killing 100 people.

The U.S. has since cut Chinese imports of toothpaste. Thus far, 900,000 tubes of toothpaste containing the diethylene glycol -- a thickening-agent contained in anti-freeze and also a cheap sweetener -- have been shipped to the southeastern U.S. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the chemical has a “low but meaningful risk of toxicity and injury” for children and those suffering from kidney or liver disease. The FDA described the chemical as a “syrupy poison.” Thus far, there have been no reports in the U.S. of sicknesses related to the Chinese import.

Bulk of Tainted Import Landed in Georgia

The bulk of the tainted import was located in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, said the Times. Although Chinese officials claim the toothpaste had small amounts of diethylene glycol and was harmless, the GDAS was unconvinced. Nearly 6,000 cases of toothpaste, each with 144 tubes of the “Springfresh” brand were confiscated in Georgia, according to Beal of the GDAS. Tests later revealed the product contained a diethylene glycol concentration of 5 percent.

The FDA has road-blocked further shipments. “This stuff does not belong in toothpaste, period,” said the FDA’s Doug Arbesfeld. “No Chinese toothpaste has come into the country since the end of May.”

It was learned imports surfacing in Georgia were shipped from American Amenities in Seattle. But GDAS could not pinpoint where it was made in China.. Jesse Lyon, counsel for American Amenities, said his client recalled all suspect shipments of the product and had stopped importing Chinese toothpaste. Lyon said American Amenities had about 30 customers, with Georgia being the largest.

The Globe and Mail reported this week three Japanese importers recalled millions of Chinese-made toothpaste containing the tainted chemical.

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