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Another Freaky Friday From the FDA

Via Ellroon, the FDA had another Friday notification. The agency advises people who have been importing glycerin to check to ensure that they didn’t receive diethylene glycol [DEG].

Both are sweet syrups, but glycerin is used in the manufacture of cough syrups and children’s form of medications, while DEG is a toxic liquid used in automotive anti-freeze and solvents.

There are dozens of cases of dogs dying from drinking pools of anti-freeze from leaking radiators every year, like the melamine from last Friday, it causes renal failure in pets and humans.

The Wikipedia article notes:

In October 2006 the CDC and the Ministry of Health of Panama detected toxic levels of diethylene glycol in a sugarless liquid expectorant during an investigation of 46 deaths from a syndrome characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms, renal failure and paralysis. Almost all the victims were hypertension and diabetes patients in their 40s to 80s. Criminal investigations are ongoing. The source of the contamination was found to be the Taixing Glycerine Factory, a Chinese company in Hengxiang, China. Taixing Glycerine sold diethylene glycol falsely labelled as pharmaceutical grade glycerine, through the state-owned Chinese trading company CNSC Fortune Way, based in Beijing. A government agency in Panama purchased the falsely labelled product containing diethylene glycol and incorporated it into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine.

The New York Times article goes into the problem in detail, but it may be time to wonder why the FDA took this long to react to a problem from October, 2006, and why they put the notice out on Friday afternoon?

Can we just admit that China has no controls on its exports and just assume that you are going to be required to test everything you get from them to ensure it won’t kill living things? Why do we have to wait until people die to start checking?

4 comments

1 hipparchia { 05.06.07 at 11:00 pm }

cheaper to let a few thousand people die, especially if they’re in countries we don’t care about.

2 Bryan { 05.06.07 at 11:14 pm }

Now that they have been warned, any problems will result is hefty law suits. I can’t see the Democratic Congress passing any laws to make the drug companies blameless.

3 Steve Bates { 05.06.07 at 11:53 pm }

I ask myself how the manufacturers in China can sleep nights; then I remember that many major corporations based in the U.S. would do the same if the price were right.

Diethylene glycol has been known as a cat-killer for over a decade that I know of, probably longer. Pet owners warn people who let their animals outdoors to keep them out of parking lots if possible, for a lot of reasons, including not letting them drink leaked antifreeze. That someone would add the stuff to human food or over-the-counter medication is unconscionable… which in this day and age means unsurprising.

‘Scuse me; I need to get another glass of California zinfandel. At least I believe I know the poisons in that…

4 Bryan { 05.07.07 at 12:13 am }

Actually, Austria nearly went out of wine making when some people decided to add a little DEG to give their wine for extra sweetness and body. They now only produce dry white wines as a result of the scandal.

What’s really stupid is that glycerin is by-product of bio-diesel, and there will be a glut shortly. It is has always been a by-product of soap making.

This is greed, pure and simple. There needs to be some accounting. Inspect every item and add the cost to the product, then see if they can compete in the world market. It’s one thing to lose a contract because someone can produce an identical product cheaper, but when they sell poison as food, there has to be a penalty.