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Watch Out for Potentially Unsafe Toothpastes

In 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued consumer warnings against toothpastes coming from China and South Africa. The agency has identified these imported products over concerns that they contain a poisonous and potentially hazardous substance known as diethylene glycol (DEG), which is used in antifreeze. An advisory was also issued stating that these products are typically sold, at a lower price, at “bargain” stores and retail outlets.

While the ban on certain imported toothpastes was lifted, consumers should still exercise precaution in the purchase of these products. Accordingly, the FDA advises the public to look at the product’s label; if it contains DEG, do not use it.

The public should also look out for “gray market” toothpastes: counterfeit products marketed and sold under a particular brand name without the permission of the brand’s true manufacturer. These toothpastes are potentially dangerous since they may not contain the same ingredient quality as its original counterpart. Since its production and sale were not authorized, safe use cannot be assured.

To identify a counterfeit product, check the label for spelling errors, uneven spacing of markings or any signs of inconsistent labeling. Take note that genuine products are stamped with a seal of approval from the FDA.

In all cases, avoid toothpastes that don’t present “Drugs Facts” on their packaging. The FDA regulates the content of each toothpaste product. Accordingly, it is mandatory for manufacturers to list their ingredients. If no list appears on the label, it is mostly like coming from an illegal source.

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