Nicaraguan police confiscate Chinese toothpaste

Nicaraguan police have seized more than 40,000 tubes of Chinese-made toothpaste that may contain a chemical that killed at least 51 people in Panama last year.

All U.S. imports of Chinese toothpaste were halted last week to test for diethylene glycol - a chemical commonly used in antifreeze and brake fluid.

Nicaraguan Health Minister Maritza Cuan said at a news conference Thursday that officials fear as many as 80,000 tubes may still be on the local market. Cuan said the seized toothpaste, labeled "Excel" and "Mr. Cool," had been brought in from neighboring Costa Rica by importers who were unaware the tubes were tainted.

The tubes originated in Panama, which received shipments of the toothpaste last year.

Costa Rica and Panama ordered the toothpaste pulled from shelves there earlier this month after finding it contained diethylene glycol.

In Honduras, authorities inspected two marketplaces on Thursday and seized about 250 tubes of suspect toothpaste, which were sent for testing. The government did not specify which brands were found, but urged citizens not to use any toothpaste that may have entered the country as contraband, without official seals of approval.

"We think this probably entered the country illegally, so distributing or selling it is also illegal," Carlos Aguilar, Honduras' assistant minister for health risks, told local media.

Businesses in Panama, not China, were "mainly responsible" for passing off an industrial chemical as a medical ingredient last year, leading to the deaths of at least 51 people, a senior official in China's product-inspection agency said Thursday.

Wei Chuanzhong, vice minister of the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said Chinese companies sold the industrial solvent called 'TD glycerin', to Spanish companies who then sold it to Panamanian companies. The product was then used to make cough syrup and other medicine.