Suspect toothpaste pulled from sale
By JANE GARDNER
A BRAND of toothpaste containing a chemical linked to hundreds of deaths worldwide was voluntarily recalled from four Farmer Charlies supermarkets across the Northern Rivers yesterday.
The cheap Excel brand of toothpaste contains a chemical called Diethylene Glycol, found in a deadly cough syrup which killed more than 50 people in Panama between June and October last year.
The versatile chemical is commonly used in brake fluid, plastics, cleaners, pesticides and radiator coolant and, if ingested in large enough amounts, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in extreme cases, kidney failure, paralysis and death.
Farmer Charlies general manager Simon Burgess said the toothpaste was taken off the shelves immediately after a warehouse manager alerted them to an article about a recall of the same product from a Panama store, which appeared in the world pages of yesterday's Northern Star.
"Our position is that we got to it as soon as possible," he said. "We have made this voluntary recall on good faith and we are still waiting on advice from our distributor, who has sent the product off for testing.
"If it is a prohibited chemical, we need to get it off the shelves and back from the customers."
Anyone who has bought the toothpaste is encouraged to return it to Farmer Charlies for a refund, used or unused. The toothpaste had been sold at the Iluka, Evans Head, Lismore and Ballina outlets since March for $1.99.
Monash University chemical expert Professor Bruce Wild said he assumed the chemical would have been used as a cheap substitute for glycerine, which is added to keep toothpaste moist.
"Is it dangerous? That depends on the amount you ingest," he said.
"The chemical is completely soluble in water and rinsing after brushing would get rid of it.
"It could be a shonky manufacturer adding it to the toothpaste because it is cheaper and does the same job. Overseas it is produced by the thousands of megalitres."
Prof Wild said he could not comment on whether Excel toothpaste would cause adverse health effects, but said it had caused unnecessary panic in the past.