Health Canada orders recall of contaminated toothpaste manufactured in India

Monday, July 30, 2007

The government department responsible for the health of Canadians, Health Canada, issued a warning to Canadians not to use a brand of toothpaste found to contain "unacceptable levels" of diethylene glycol (DEG).

The toothpaste is branded as India Neem Active Toothpaste with Calcium and is manufactured by Calcutta Chemical Co. Ltd. in India. Although the toothpaste is not approved for sale in Canada, it has been found on store shelves in Western and Atlantic Canada. It is also possible, though not confirmed, that the product may be found in stores across Canada.

Toothpastes that have been approved for sale in Canada will have on the packaging either an eight-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) or a Natural Product Number (NPN).

Consumers have been advised by Health Canada to discontinue use of the suspect toothpaste and ensure that the product remains out of the reach of children. As per Health Canada instructions, consumers are to return the toothpaste to the store from which they purchased it.

Health Canada describes DEG as "a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze and as a solvent. It may cause nausea, abdominal pain, dizziness, urinary problems, kidney failure, breathing problems, lethargy, convulsions, coma and even death when ingested." DEG has been used by makers of counterfeit products as a cheaper alternative to using common sweeteners.

To date, Health Canada has not been made aware of anyone becoming sick from using India Neem Active Toothpaste with Calcium.

There is an increased concern for DEG-containing toothpaste with respect to its use by children. While most adults do not ingest toothpaste, it is often swallowed by young children. Chronic exposure to DEG, according to Health Canada, "is a particular concern in specific vulnerable populations such as children and consumers with kidney or liver disease."

This current warning from Health Canada follows a similar recall of 24 brands of toothpaste from China, including some counterfeit Colgate brands, which were found to contain not only DEG, but also high levels of a harmful bacteria from the Enterobacteriaceae family. Information on the specific genus was not provided.

To obtain more information on the recall, consumers are advised to call Health Canada’s public enquiries line at 1-866-225-0709.