By Dan Kane
The News and Observer
NORTH CAROLINA — Given the cost of dental care, it's no surprise the N.C. Department of Correction would hand out free toothpaste to inmates who can't afford it.
But now they are telling inmates to stop using it. Turns out the toothpaste was made in China, where other brands have been found to contain a poisonous chemical called diethylene glycol that has caused deaths in other countries.
Correction spokesman Keith Acree said the toothpaste used in the state's prisons doesn't list diethylene glycol among its ingredients but prison officials decided to stop issuing it anyway out of an abundance of caution. They've begun notifying inmates who may have the toothpaste to stop using it.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken samples to test for the chemical, and the results should be known in a few days.
"If the results come back clean, then we'll put this toothpaste back in circulation and use it," Acree said. "If not, we'll get rid of it."
The Pacific brand toothpaste comes from Pacific Care Products of San Francisco, which imported it from China. The state pays about 23 cents for each travel-sized tube.
Tubes had been issued to all new inmates and to those who cannot afford to buy the Colgate toothpaste sold at prison canteens. The department will issue Colgate to those inmates in the interim.
The department has roughly 22,000 tubes -- or $5,000 worth -- of Pacific toothpaste sitting in its warehouse.
Suzanne Berke, general manager for Pacific Care Products, said Wednesday that the toothpaste is safe. She declined further comment. The brand is not on an FDA list of toothpastes that have been found with the chemical.
Copyright 2007 The News and Observer
N.C. prisons check inventory for tainted toothpaste