WASHINGTON – Counterfeit Colgate toothpaste has now turned up in Canada, where testing has found dangerous bacteria but not the poisonous chemical previously detected in four U.S. states, a health official said Saturday.
In addition, store owners and police say they have discovered that the bogus Colgate was sold in Michigan and Virginia.
The FDA warned earlier in June that fake Colgate distributed in Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania may contain a poisonous chemical called diethylene glycol, or DEG, that typically is used in antifreeze. That toothpaste was the subject of a June 13 recall by a New Jersey distributor.
It was not immediately clear if the counterfeit products in Pinconning, Mich., and Arlington, Va., had been tested for DEG.
In Canada, testing did not find the chemical but did show high levels of harmful bacteria, said Paul Duchesne, a spokesman for Health Canada.
A Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman said Saturday she was checking into reports of the wider distribution beyond the first four states.
The bacteria pose a significant health risk, especially to children and anyone with a weakened immune system, Health Canada said. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is investigating.
In all cases, the toothpaste was labeled as made in South Africa. Both the FDA and New York-based Colgate-Palmolive Co. have said the products are fake, citing in part misspellings — "SOUTH AFRLCA" is one — on the packaging. Its true origin is unknown, according to the FDA.
A review of FDA import refusal records show that over the last year the agency has stopped shipments of Colgate toothpaste from eight countries: Australia, China, Britain, Indonesia, India, Mexico, the Philippines and South Africa.
A Colgate-Palmolive spokesman said nearly all involved Colgate-produced toothpaste samples that were later cleared for delivery to the company's research and development center in New Jersey for routine analysis. Others may have involved diverted or counterfeit products, company spokesman Thomas DiPiazza said.
In recent weeks the FDA began stopping all suspect Chinese toothpaste before it enters the U.S. and has warned people not to use the products because they may contain DEG. The regulatory agency has identified six Chinese manufacturers that use the chemical in their toothpaste products, typically sold in the U.S. at discount or dollar stores.
Health Canada said it has identified 21 Chinese-made toothpastes that contain up to 13.7 percent DEG — a far higher level than anything found in U.S. testing. Canada too is stopping all imports of Chinese toothpaste until they can be proven safe.