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Dollar Store Toothpaste Warning

Email flier says imported brand-name toothpastes sold at dollar stores such as Dollar Tree and Greenbacks don't meet U.S. health standards and may contain dangerous amounts of fluoride.

Description: Email flier
Circulating since: May 2004
Status: True


Email example contributed by Jessika E., May 21, 2004:

Subject: Toothpaste Danger

Importance:High

Please share the information...............

FYI-
I don't know if any of you watched Channel 5 News last night, but they did an investigation on dollar stores (including Dollar Tree, Greenbacks & 99 Cents). They discovered the Crest, Colgate and other brand name toothpastes weren't the same as from Wal-mart, grocery stores etc. The toothpastes were manufactured in many other countries and are not approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). There was even some from South Africa and the fluoride is ten times stronger than what we're allowed in the U.S. (prescription strength). They're allowed stronger because they don't have fluoridated water (like we do). So if we (or our kids) use it often and occasionally swallow it, we could be poisoning ourselves. The dollar stores declined to comment and a full investigation has begun. So stick to paying full-price at the grocery store and send this e-mail to anyone who shops at dollar stores.


Analysis: Given that the phenomenon described above has been documented by local TV stations across the U.S. with similar findings in every case, there is clearly some truth to the story and justification for concern. From Houston to Wichita to Phoenix, Arizona, camera crews scouring the shelves of dollar stores have found name-brand personal care products intended for sale in foreign countries which may or may not meet U.S. safety standards.

It's unclear, however, to what extent these products actually threaten the health of Americans.

Conflicting reports

One report claims a tube of South African toothpaste was found to contain fluoride levels "three to four times higher" than the FDA allows. Another cites a South African toothpaste allegedly containing 10 times the amount of fluoride found in U.S.-approved products. Yet another says a name-brand toothpaste intended for sale in South Africa lists no ingredients whatsoever on its label. But we are not told what these brand names are, nor how the fluoride content of each was established.

Most developed countries, including South Africa, have safety standards for cosmetics and personal care products roughly similar to those in the United States. So, while it's conceivable, given international variances in guidelines and enforcement, that an over-the-counter, name-brand toothpaste manufactured for distribution in South Africa could contain a higher level of fluoride than its American counterpart, it seems unlikely such a product would contain 10 times more fluoride -- an amount far greater than that found in special therapeutic dentifrices sold only by prescription in the U.S.

Imported products inadequately labeled

Taking into account these inconsistencies and absence of supporting evidence, it's fair to question whether these figures are wholly accurate. Still, it is a fact that the "diverted" foreign products found on dollar store shelves are inadequately labeled, don't have FDA or ADA (American Dental Association) approval and aren't supposed to be sold in the United States. For safety's sake, consumers are best advised to heed the recommendations of professional dentists and stick to approved, properly labeled products.

2007 Update

In June 2007, the Colgate-Palmolive Company notified consumers that counterfeit Colgate toothpaste imported from South Africa and found on the shelves of some discount stores in the U.S. may contain diethylene glycol, a hazardous chemical also found in antifreeze. Read more...


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Sources and further reading:

Potentially Dangerous Toothpaste On Houston Store Shelves
Click2Houston.com, 17 February 2004

Discount Dental Danger
From KAKE-TV

Some Dollar-Store Bargains Could Prove Costly
NBC 5 (Dallas), 11 May 2004

FDA: Avoid Toothpaste from China
Associated Press, 1 June 2007

Colgate Warns of Fake Toothpaste in U.S.
Associated Press, 14 June 2007


Last updated: 06/14/07


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