updated 8/13/2007 5:55:31 PM ET 2007-08-13T21:55:31

A chemical that thickens antifreeze has turned up again in a Chinese-made toothpaste, this time under a brand that serves luxury hotels around the world.

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Gilchrist & Soames said Monday it is recalling its 18-milliliter or 0.65-ounce tubes of complementary toothpaste with the company name on it. The company said some samples showed the toothpaste contained diethylene glycol, a chemical that can lead to liver and kidney damage.

It was the latest in a series of recalls of Chinese-made goods — toothpaste, children’s toys, tires and pet food — because of manufacturing methods that many say are shoddy or dangerous.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned consumers to avoid several brands of toothpaste made in China because the products may contain diethylene glycol.

Chinese manufacturers have used the chemical, known as DEG, as a cheaper alternative to glycerin, an ingredient that thickens toothpaste, said Mengshi Lin, a University of Missouri food scientist and former food safety regulator for the Chinese government.

“The two chemicals, actually, are pretty similar,” he said. “They are like cousins to each other.”

Diethylene glycol, however, can cause kidney and liver damage if someone is exposed to it over time. Low levels of it do not harm humans, Lin said.

The FDA allows only trace amounts of DEG in toothpaste. The Chinese government announced last month that it was banning DEG from toothpaste, Lin said.

Plant shutting down
China also is shutting down a chemical plant linked to dozens of deaths in Panama from tainted medicine, and it closed two companies tied to pet deaths in North America.

Indianapolis-based Gilchrist & Soames quarantined its toothpaste made in China in June after the FDA issued its warning.

The company’s toothpaste was not mentioned in that alert, but Gilchrist & Soames told its customers to stop offering the Chinese-made toothpaste. It then started testing its supply and found the chemical in toothpaste made by Ming Fai Enterprises International Co.

The toothpaste, which is labeled “Made in China,” was placed in bathrooms or came in dental kits that also contain toothbrushes or dental floss. Gilchrist & Soames President Kathie De Voe declined to say how many tubes were recalled.

“Toothpaste in dental kits in our business is a very small percentage, and then what we’re talking about is from one particular supplier,” she said.

De Voe declined to identify the hotels or resorts that received the toothpaste, saying the information was confidential. The company’s Web site, which describes Gilchrist & Soames as “the only branded toiletries company dedicated to the luxury hotel market,” lists The Greenbrier in West Virginia, Florida’s Amelia Island Plantation and London’s Plaza on the River as clients.

Spokeswomen for Greenbrier and Amelia Island said neither facility uses Gilchrist & Soames toothpaste. London’s Plaza on the River could not immediately confirm whether it had recalled Gilchrist & Soames products.

De Voe said her company is working with hotels to contact repeat customers to make sure they throw out the toothpaste.

“The FDA has reached out to the consumer side of the hotels, we’ve reached out to the hotels,” she said. “We stopped shipping over two months ago now, so we feel that we’ve got our arms around it.”

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