Nicaragua Seizes 6,000 Tubes of Contaminated Toothpaste From China

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Nicaraguan police seized 6,000 tubes of a Chinese-made toothpaste suspected of containing a chemical that killed at least 51 people in nearby Panama last year, the health minister said Sunday.

All U.S. imports of Chinese toothpaste were halted last week to test for diethylene glycol — a chemical commonly used in antifreeze and brake fluid.

Nicaraguan Health Minister Maritza Cuan told Channel 8 the seized toothpaste, labeled "Excel" and "Mr. Cool," had been smuggled in from Panama.

"What we have to do now is recover all the toothpaste imported into the country so it doesn't damage the population," Cuan said.

In Nicaragua, the toothpaste was seized from a vast market in the capital. Some vendors also were hawking it door to door, Cuan said. The product also could have been smuggled from Panama to Honduras and Colombia.

Panama ordered the toothpaste pulled from shelves there earlier this month after finding it contained diethylene glycol.

The Chinese government has said it is investigating the toothpaste, which the manufacturer has said is safe.

At least 51 people died in Panama since October after taking medicine contaminated with diethylene glycol. The substance was found in cough syrup and other medications made in a Panama government laboratory from a falsely labeled shipment that workers thought was glycerin. The chemical was traced to a Chinese company.

Earlier this year, pet food ingredients from China were blamed in the deaths of dogs and cats in North America.