Health Canada is warning Canadians not to use Chinese toothpaste found on the Canadian market because 21 products to date have been found to contain unacceptable levels of diethylene glycol (DEG).
DEG is a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent that may cause nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness, urinary problems, kidney failure, breathing problems, lethargy, convulsions, coma and even death when ingested.
While toothpaste is not meant to be swallowed, it is often swallowed by young children. The potential health risks from chronic exposure to DEG are a particular concern in specific vulnerable populations such as children and consumers with kidney or liver disease.
A second toothpaste-related Warning was issued today by Health Canada on counterfeit Colgate products with high bacteria levels, which is unrelated to this Warning.
The DEG-containing toothpastes identified to date are labelled primarily in Chinese and were found in Chinese markets and dollar stores across the country. None of the products are approved for sale by Health Canada. Health Canada is requesting retailers to remove all Chinese toothpaste from their shelves and the Department will be communicating further with Chinese merchant associations across the country about this warning. Health Canada will also verify that the products have been taken off the market.
A customs alert was issued June 5, 2007 to the Canada Border Services Agency to stop shipments of toothpaste originating from China. Intercepted shipments will not be allowed into Canada until the importer can demonstrate that it complies with the Food and Drugs Act and Regulations.
There are no fluoride-containing toothpastes approved for sale in Canada that are manufactured in China. Fluoride-containing toothpastes that have been approved for sale in Canada will contain either an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) or a Natural Product Number (NPN).
As of June 29, 2007, 21 Chinese toothpastes tested by Health Canada had been found to contain DEG levels up to 13.7 per cent. Further testing is being done, and Health Canada will update the list of products as required. Photos of the DEG-containing products are attached to this release, and can also be found on the Health Canada Web site.
Consumers in possession of any of these toothpastes are advised to discontinue use immediately and ensure that these products remain out of the reach of children. Consumers should return the product to the store they bought it from. Retailers of these Chinese toothpastes are to return the products to the importer. To date, Health Canada has not received any adverse reaction reports of DEG toxicity related to a toothpaste product.