- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2007

Arlington County, Va., police yesterday said they had seized from a dollar store several boxes of counterfeit toothpaste containing a dangerous chemical additive used in antifreeze.

Police responded to a call at a Dollar Plus store in the 4800 block of Columbia Pike Thursday night and found several boxes of Colgate toothpaste that had spelling mistakes and references to South Africa.

“We’ve never had a case like this before,” police spokesman Detective Steve Gomez said. “We’re going to pass along information to the [Food and Drug Administration] to add to what they have.”

Detective Gomez said an officer took some boxes as evidence and researched the spelling errors on the Internet. The errors matched those on other boxes of counterfeit toothpaste that contain the chemical diethylene glycol, he said.

Diethylene glycol is used as a coolant and as a solvent, according to information from the FDA.

Detective Gomez said the officer advised the store’s owner to remove the product. He said the officer returned to the store yesterday and confirmed all the boxes had been removed.

A worker at the store would not comment. The store’s owner did not return a message yesterday.

Colgate-Palmolive Co. said in a statement: “Colgate did not make or distribute the counterfeit product, and the company has contacted the Arlington, Va., police to support their investigation.”

The company has said that it does not produce toothpaste in South Africa. It also said diethylene glycol has never been an ingredient in its toothpaste, and anyone with the fake toothpaste should throw it away.

MS USA Trading, Inc., a New Jersey company that sells Colgate products, issued a nationwide recall June 13 of five-ounce toothpaste tubes imported from China after the FDA found the chemical in them during routine tests, according to the FDA.

The counterfeit products were first found in dollar stores in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. The report makes Virginia the fifth state in which the products have appeared.

There have been a handful of news reports of persons saying they became ill after using the toothpaste, but Doug Arbesfeld, an FDA spokesman, said he was unaware of any official complaints with the agency.

“If we’ve gotten any reports, it’s very low,” he said.

The FDA has posted notices on its Web site warning consumers about the toothpaste. This incident comes as federal authorities investigate recent safety issues regarding products from China including pet food, tires and toys.