Colgate finds fake toothpaste in 4 states

Company says counterfeit products may contain poisonous chemical; fake products can be identified by misspellings on label.

LONDON ( -- Fake "Colgate" toothpaste that may contain a poisonous chemical has been found in four states, Colgate-Palmolive said Thursday.

Colgate said the fake toothpaste may contain diethylene glycol, which the company never uses in its toothpaste. The company said it is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to locate the source of the counterfeiting.

The fake toothpaste has been found in discount stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, the company said.

Colgate did not immediately respond to an inquiry seeking details of which stores the counterfeit toothpaste was found in or how it may have found its way into the United States.

The chemical, also known as DEG and sometimes illegally used as an inexpensive sweetener and thickening agent, is commonly found in solvents and antifreeze.

The fake products aren't manufactured or distributed by Colgate-Palmolive (Charts, Fortune 500) and can be identified because they say they are manufactured in South Africa or have misspellings on the label.

The Colgate announcement comes almost two weeks after the FDA warned consumers to avoid any toothpaste made in China after inspectors found DEG in tubes sold at two stores.

The FDA also issued an import alert aimed at preventing all toothpaste from three companies in China that make brands found to contain DEG from entering the United States.

The FDA has said it is not aware of any U.S. reports of poisonings from DEG-tainted toothpaste but says the chemical has a "low but meaningful risk of toxicity and injury," especially to children and people with kidney or liver disease.

Colgate-Palmolive said it was working closely with the FDA to identify those responsible for the counterfeit product.

Colgate is the leading toothpaste company, with 36 percent of the U.S. market in 2006, slightly ahead of Crest, a Procter & Gamble Co. (Charts, Fortune 500) brand, with 35.7 percent, according to Euromonitor data.

A spokeswoman for Crest said on Thursday that counterfeit toothpaste is currently not an issue for the company.

--from staff and wire reports Top of page