Tainted Toothpaste Found in US Prisons

The Associated Press
Thursday, June 28, 2007; 12:36 PM

ATLANTA -- Thousands of tubes of contaminated Chinese-made toothpaste were shipped to state prisons and mental hospitals in Georgia, officials said Thursday, a sign that U.S. distribution of the tainted products was wider than initially thought.

Officials with the state prison system and with the agencies that run mental hospitals and juvenile detention centers said they knew of no health problems stemming from the Chinese products.

They said the toothpaste contaminated with diethylene glycol, which is often found in antifreeze, was immediately taken out of use as soon as federal officials notified the state about the problem.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised consumers to "avoid using tubes of toothpaste labeled as made in China," according to a statement posted on the agency's Web site.

"Out of an abundance of caution, FDA suggests that consumers throw away toothpaste labeled as made in China," the statement said.

Chinese-made toothpaste has been banned by numerous countries in Asia and the Americas for containing diethylene glycol, or DEG. It is also a low-cost _ and sometimes deadly _ substitute for glycerin, a sweetener in many drugs.

The New York Times reported Thursday that about 900,000 tubes have turned up in the United States, including correctional facilities and some hospitals, not just at discount stores as initially thought.

China insisted Thursday that the safety of its products was "guaranteed," making a rare direct comment on spreading international fears over tainted and adulterated exports.

China "has paid great attention" to the safety of its exports, especially food, because it concerns people's health, Commerce Ministry spokesman Wang Xinpei said.

"It can be said that the quality of China's exports all are guaranteed," Wang told reporters at a regularly scheduled briefing.

Rick Beal in the purchasing division of the Georgia Department of Administrative Services told The Associated Press that cases of the tainted Chinese toothpaste were sent to two state prisons, five state psychiatric hospitals and four juvenile detention facilities.

The prison system was the largest consumer, with 5,877 cases. The hospitals had 101 cases plus some loose tubes and the juvenile detention centers had 25 cases. Each case had 144 tubes.

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