Spokane County jail officials have begun scrambling to find a substitute for as many as 12,000 tubes of suspect toothpaste from China after belatedly learning of a recall.

Jail Capt. Jerry Brady said he received a letter announcing the recall late Wednesday and postmarked Monday from Amercare Products Inc. of Woodinville, although warnings were issued last month.

Distribution of 2.75-ounce tubes of AmerFresh brand toothpaste that may have been tainted with diethylene glycol, or DEG, was halted Thursday and new toothpaste for the nearly 600 inmates a day was ordered.

"As soon as I became aware of it, we stopped it," Brady told The Spokesman-Review.

Amercare officials did not return a call Thursday.

DEG, used in antifreeze and as a solvent, can be toxic to the liver and kidneys.

The Food and Drug Administration recalled several specific brands of imported toothpaste last month and issued a general warning to consumers June 1 to avoid any Chinese-made toothpaste after the poison was detected in some samples.

"I don't believe I was ever told specifically about an FDA recall," Brady said.

Amercare, which has contracts with several state agencies, issued a voluntary recall July 10 for AmerFresh and Pacific brand toothpaste, regular and gel.

To hold costs down, Amercare toothpaste was included in 10,000 jail admission kits and 2,000 hygiene kits that were ordered this year, said Kay L. Donder, a jail supervisor.

"We're not going with name brands, we're looking for the best deal," Donder said.