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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
China probes 'tainted' toothpaste
A toothbrush
Toothpaste is the latest Chinese export to raise safety concerns
China says is investigating reports that toothpaste contaminated with a potentially lethal chemical had been exported to Central America.

Thousands of tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste have been confiscated in Panama and the Dominican Republic.

The toothpaste contains diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in engine coolants, authorities there say.

A series of scares over the safety of Chinese products have recently aroused global concern.

The Dominican Republic has banned the sale of two different brands of toothpaste, both of which were made in China and imported through Panama.

May 2007 China probes reports that contaminated toothpaste was sent to Central America
March 2007 Melamine is found in wheat gluten exports from China for use in pet food, prompting a recall of at least 100 pet food brands
Nov 2006 A dye farmers fed to ducks to make their eggs look fresher is found to contain cancer-causing properties and 5,000 ducks are culled
August 2006 About 40 people in Beijing contract meningitis after eating partially cooked snails at a chain of restaurants

Panama removed the brands from shops last week after tests found they tested positive for the chemical.

Consumers in both countries have been advised not to use the products.

On Wednesday, the Chinese government said a joint team from several government agencies was conducting investigations in both Beijing and the eastern province Jiangsu, and that the results would be made public as soon as possible.

A series of recent incidents have highlighted international concerns over the safety of Chinese products. The subject was raised by the US in bilateral trade talks this week.

Earlier this year pet food ingredients from China contaminated with the chemical melamine were blamed for the deaths of dogs and cats in the US, leading to a massive pet food recall.

On Wednesday China's official China Daily newspaper issued an editorial criticising the country's food safety regulators and their response to this earlier crisis.

However, it also said that while some exported food did not meet international standards, the biggest problem was China's domestic food safety situation.

"It is an open secret here that our manufacturers usually employ higher standards when it comes to exports," it said.

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