Monday, May 28, 2007

Costa Rica seizes contaminated Chinese toothpaste

Chinese made Mr. Cool tainted toothpaste is displayed for the camera at the control and registry office of the Ministry of Health in San Jose.(AP Photo/Kent Gilbert)SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) - Health officials said Friday they have seized more than 350 tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste tainted with a deadly chemical reportedly found in tubes sold elsewhere in the world.

Health Secretary Maria Luisa Avila said 56 tubes of toothpaste containing diethylene glycol, a chemical commonly used in antifreeze and brake fluid, were found in the northern city of Liberia, in the province of Guanacaste, and 306 more were seized from a warehouse in the capital of San Jose.

Avila also said her department issued a nationwide alert although there have been no reports of anyone falling ill.

China has formed a government task force to investigate after contaminated toothpaste was also found in Australia, the Dominican Republic and Panama.

Diethylene glycol, or DEG, is a thickening agent used as a low-cost - but frequently deadly - substitute for glycerin, a sweetener commonly used in drugs.

DEG was blamed for the deaths of at least 51 people in Panama last year after it was mixed into cough syrup, another case with possible ties to China.

The United States said this week it was checking all toothpaste shipments from China as a precautionary measure

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