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.”