Man Who Discovered Tainted Toothpaste Located, Interviewed

Sometimes being a conscientious shopper really does matter. The man who realized that tubes of discount toothpaste were tainted with diethylene glycol last May has been found and interviewed by the New York Times. Eduardo Arias, a 51-year-old government worker in Panama City, was shopping in a discount store one Saturday when he saw the toothpaste—he said he could read the ingredients list clearly without even picking up a tube, and when he saw “diethylene glycol” as an ingredient, alarms went off.

He bought a tube, and the next Monday he took a vacation day to bring it to a Health Ministry office. They directed him to a second office, naturally. They told him to take the toothpaste to a third office, and when he balked, they had him fill out a complaint form and leave the tube. Three days later, the story exploded when the country’s top health official reported that a “shopper in Panama” had discovered the tainted product.

A year ago, those words would have meant nothing to him. “Nobody had ever heard of this stuff,” Mr. Arias said. But a steady drumbeat of news about poison cough syrup had engraved the words in his mind.

“It was inconceivable to me that a known toxic substance that killed all these people could be openly on sale and that people would go on about their business calmly, selling and buying this stuff.”

“The Everyman Who Exposed Tainted Toothpaste” [New York Times]
(Photo: Janmi)


Edit Your Comment

  1. SwatLax says:

    I feel like this man should jump to the top of the list of candidates for Consumerist’s “Consumer of the Year” award.

  2. Charles Duffy says:

    @SwatLax: Really. Taking an unpaid day off work and then fighting with low-level bureaucrats who simply didn’t care — that’s very much above and beyond.

  3. hapless says:

    I think the real heroes of this story were the guys who had no problem printing the real ingredients on the tube. At least the manufacturers were honest :)

  4. ViperBorg says:

    Go Eduardo Arias! You rock!

  5. ElizabethD says:

    A good lesson for anyone who thinks that their solitary little complaint can’t make a difference….

  6. This piece made me happy. As Charles Duffy commented above, I was pleasantly surprised that he took a day off from work and then followed the zig-zag line as he was sent from one office to another to another.

    Now that’s true behavior!

  7. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Give that man a prize.

  8. lestat730 says:

    It’s good he is getting some recognition, sounds like he may have even saved some lives. Even the toothpaste company should be thanking him! (as this will probably prevent a whole ton of lawsuits brought against them for causing injury or death.)