By Dan Shapley
The Food and Drug Administration will check all shipments of Chinese toothpaste entering the United States, after the poisonous diethylene glycol was found in Chinese paste sold in Panama. Diethylene glycol is used to make antifreeze, engine coolant, solvents and a variety of other chemical products. Its use in by a Chinese paste maker is another example of a cheap, but toxic, substance being used in the manufacturing of food and personal care products. Glycerine, a nontoxic but often more expensive cousin of the substance, is commonly used to make toothpaste. This spring, the chemical melamine was added to Chinese wheat flour, labeled as high-protein wheat gluten, and sold to U.S. pet food manufacturers. It was fed to pets -- killing hundreds, or thousands -- and mixed in with animal feed that was then consumed by pigs, chickens and fish. The pigs have been approved for slaughter and sale as human food. The lax safety standards employed by Chinese plants, and the acknowledged inability of the FDA to monitor the increasingly complex international food and drug marketplace are the subject of ongoing discussions in Washington. For people concerned about the safety of the food they eat and products they use, buying local is one strategy for weaving a consumer-level safety net, according to a story in the May 24 Los Angeles Times.