Tubes of counterfeit toothpaste sold in discount stores in four states under a Colgate label are being recalled as they may contain a poisonous chemical.
A Food and Drug Administration official, Doug Arbesfeld, said Wednesday that testing had found the chemical in a product with the Colgate label, but said in the initial announcement that the FDA was unsure whether it really was Colgate or a counterfeit.
"We are aware that toothpaste is something that's been counterfeited in the past," he said. "We don't want to alarm people unnecessarily."
MS USA Trading, Inc. of North Bergen, New Jersey, the importer involved in the initial recall announcement, said the toothpaste may contain diethylene glycol, a chemical found in antifreeze.
The company said the toothpaste, imported from South Africa, was sold in discount stores in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
"Made in South Africa" is printed on the box and includes Regular, Gel, Triple and Herbal versions.
The trading company said the problem was discovered in routine testing by the Food and Drug Administration. It said no illnesses have been reported to date.
The same chemical has led to the recall of several brands of toothpaste imported from China in recent weeks.
Consumers who have purchased 5-ounce toothpaste under the Colgate label can return them to the place of purchase for a refund, MS USA Trading said.
Colgate-Palmolive issued a press release early Thursday saying the tubes are counterfeit.
The company said it does not use, nor has it ever used, diethylene glycol as an ingredient in Colgate toothpaste anywhere in the world.
"Colgate does not import toothpaste into the United States from South Africa," said the statement from Colgate-Palmolive. "In addition, the counterfeit packages examined so far have several misspellings including: `isclinically,' `SOUTH AFRLCA' and `South African Dental Assoxiation.
"Counterfeit toothpaste is not manufactured or distributed by Colgate and has no connection with the company whatsoever," the company said, adding that Colgate is working closely with the FDA "to help to identify those responsible for the counterfeit product."