Charges Filed Against Importers Of Toxic Toothpaste

On Tuesday, the city of Los Angeles and the FDA charged the heads of two U.S. importing companies with 14 counts each of “receiving, selling and delivering an adulterated drug,” for their roles in importing and distributing over 70,000 tubes of toothpaste containing diethylene glycol (DEG) instead of glycerin. “Each count carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.”

From the Washington Post:

The companies are liable for distributing the tainted product even if they had no direct knowledge of the risk because they were negligent in not ensuring the toothpaste was safe, Supervising Deputy City Attorney Jerry Baik said.

Ghermezi said he had not seen the charges but was shocked by the filing. All the adulterated toothpaste was voluntarily pulled from shelves and from his Vernon, Calif., company’s inventory eight months ago and destroyed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month, he said.

“Everything we had was destroyed by the FDA,” Ghermezi said. “I thought the file had been closed.”

Ghermezi said he supplied the toothpaste to Vernon Sales, also based in Vernon. He said his company never knowingly sold adulterated toothpaste and thought the product had FDA approval.

“We didn’t know of the ingredients of the toothpaste,” he said. “We don’t [have] any intention of hurting people.”

What’s the appropriate level of punishment for unwittingly importing tainted products? Is it reasonable to ask a U.S. importer to test products for safety and/or monitor production quality overseas? Is this too harsh, or do the prosecutors have evidence of deliberate negligence? We’re waiting to see more details of the case before feeling sympathy or vindication.

(Thanks to dsavlin!)

“Charges filed against LA importers over toxic Chinese toothpaste” [Chicago Tribune]
“Criminal Charges Filed Over Poisonous Toothpaste” [Washington Post]
“Los Angeles City’s Chief Prosecutor, Along With FDA, Files Criminal Charges Against Two Local Companies For Toxic Toothpaste Import “ [RTT News]

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The saga of the tainted toothpaste on Consumerist
(Photo: Janmi_)