WASHINGTON – Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL) on Thursday said counterfeit "Colgate" toothpaste that may contain a toxic chemical had been found in discount stores in four U.S. states.
"There are indications that this product does not contain fluoride and may contain diethylene glycol," the company said in a statement.
Colgate-Palmolive said it does not use, nor has ever used, diethylene glycol as an ingredient in its toothpaste anywhere in the world. The chemical, known as DEG and sometimes illegally used as an inexpensive sweetener and thickening agent, is commonly found in solvents and antifreeze.
The Colgate-Palmolive announcement comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to avoid any toothpaste made in China after inspectors found DEG in tubes sold at two stores.
The health regulator also issued an import alert, with the aim of preventing all toothpaste from three companies in China that make the brands found to contain DEG from entering the United States.
Colgate-Palmolive said the counterfeit toothpaste was found in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland. It can be recognized because it is labeled as being manufactured in South Africa, and the company does not import toothpaste to the United States from South Africa.
The packaging also contains several misspellings, Colgate said, adding that it was working closely with the FDA to help identify those responsible for the counterfeit product.
DEG-contaminated toothpaste has also been seized in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Nicaragua. It was found in cough syrup in Panama that led to the deaths of at least 100 people last year.
The FDA issued its alert about Chinese toothpaste after seizing a batch of Cooldent found to contain 3 percent DEG. Inspectors found the toothpaste at a Dollar Plus store in Miami and at a store called Todo a Peso in Puerto Rico.
Brands seized earlier included Cooldent, Clean Rite and Oralmax that are usually found at discount retailers such as so-called dollar stores, the agency said.
The FDA identified products by Goldcredit International Enterprises Ltd., Goldcredit International Trading Co. Ltd., and Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals Co. Ltd as containing
Goldcredit International Enterprises is a unit of JiangsuXingda Stationery Group, a manufacturer of glue and office supplies. Suzhou City Jinmao Daily Chemicals also makes soap and pet products.
The FDA on June 8 said it was not aware of any U.S. reports of poisonings from DEG-tainted toothpaste, but said the chemical has a "low but meaningful risk of toxicity and injury," especially to children and people with kidney or liver disease.
Colgate, which also makes dish soap and pet food, was minimally impacted earlier this year when it recalled two products manufactured by a Canadian company whose goods were found to contain contaminated wheat gluten imported from China, blamed for the deaths of at least 14 pets.