Between 2006 and 2007, 17 shipments of SpringFresh toothpaste were shipped from China to the U.S. ports of Tacoma or Seattle, according to research commissioned by the Associated Press. Importing business American Amenities received the shipments, some of which were slated for Georgia prisons.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for inspecting toothpaste, has seven full-time inspectors at the Seattle port and three in Tacoma, they did not test the toothpaste at that time.
It was only after seeing news reports about the antifreeze chemical diethylene glycol -- or DEG -- being found in toothpaste in Panama, the Dominican Republic, and Australia that the FDA checked into things. After testing 140 samples of Chinese-made toothpastes from retailers, importers, and distributors, they found 38 percent contained DEG.
SpringFresh did not make the initial warning list issued by the FDA, however American Amenities did their own testing and found the chemical in some of their products. Later, FDA tests found one tube contained 6 percent DEG, one of the highest levels found in the United States.
Chinese Officials Allow up to 15.6 Percent DEG in Toothpaste
In the United States, only trace amounts of DEG are allowed in toothpaste. However, in China toothpaste may contain up to 15.6 percent DEG and still be considered safe.
The Chinese plant that manufactured SpringFresh substituted DEG for another, more expensive, sweetener in the toothpaste.
The FDA maintains that even the recalled toothpaste does not contain enough DEG to cause serious health problems, even in children. Using figures based on a 6-ounce tube of toothpaste that contained 3 percent DEG, they say a 150-pound adult would have to eat 175 tubes to receive a fatal dose; a child would have to eat 25 tubes.
In 1937, at least 105 people died in the United States after taking a medication that contained DEG. Just last year, at least 90 people died in Panama from cough syrup and other medication tainted with DEG.
About 60 percent of all U.S. consumer-product recalls are now related to Chinese goods.
They’re widely known for producing affordable (cheap) goods, and in the past year alone have made quite the name for themselves as a producer of toxic goods as well. Along with the tainted toothpaste, the United States has been grappling with a string of toxic disasters in the last year alone:
- Pet food ingredients laced with toxic melamine
- Imported livestock quarantined for disease and banned chemical contaminants
- Catfish fillets from Chinese aquatic farms tainted with bacteria and heavy metals
- Dried apples preserved with a cancer-causing chemical
- Mushrooms laced with illegal pesticides
- China’s, for manufacturing toothpaste with cheap and toxic ingredients?
- The importer’s, for purchasing the toothpaste without knowing what’s in it?
- The FDA’s, for not inspecting the shipments when they arrived in U.S. ports?
- The consumer’s, for purchasing it?
In the United States, most are also not benefiting from the massive influx of cheap goods. You may be able to buy toothpaste for under a dollar, but at what expense to your health? Meanwhile, corporate entities, like Wal-Mart -- the largest food retailer in the United States, and China’s eighth-largest trading partner -- are profiting handsomely.
It is clear that profits are winning out over quality and, often, ethics, when it comes to the majority of goods on the market. This is why small mom-and-pop shops have been shut down by mega-retailers like Wal-Mart, and huge factory-farms have beat out small family farms across the countryside.
It is also clear, and has been for some time, that the FDA cannot, or will not, protect you from toxic foods, toiletries, or medications. After all, while many are pointing fingers at China, it's easy to overlook the fact that the United States has its own issues with adding potentially dangerous compounds to foods. Most toothpaste on the market in the United States, for instance, would not receive my seal of approval because they contain fluoride, artificial sweeteners, and triclosan. Further, the vast majority of personal care products in the United States are NOT tested for safety.
There is a silver lining among all of these dark clouds, though. Increasing numbers of people in the United States and elsewhere are looking to return to traditional ways. This is evidenced by growing movements in community-supported agriculture programs, increased awareness about the benefits of natural foods like raw milk, and the popularity of organic foods and health food markets.
You may not be able to control what China puts into their food supply and toiletries -- or what the United States puts into theirs, for that matter -- but you can return to a more natural lifestyle by seeking out locally grown food and even simple hand-made (or homemade) toiletries. By getting to know the people who grow and make the products you buy (at least a good portion of them), you can have peace of mind and not worry about whether or not the FDA is doing their job.
With respect to toothpaste though I am actually planning to provide a great tasting novel health toothpaste that has never been introduced anywhere in the world before. I just got the idea last week after reviewing some new exciting research that proved this tasty treat is 400% stronger than fluoride in preventing cavities. I am working with a company now that plans on bringing it to market.