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Safety woes widen for China's goods

Toothpaste, tires go on recall list

BEIJING -- China's shoddy record in product safety took another hit yesterday after Japanese importers recalled toothpaste containing a chemical used in antifreeze.

The toothpaste recall followed accusations by a US company that its Chinese partner was supplying faulty tires.

Coupled with the latest international concerns was an announcement that Chinese inspectors had closed 180 food factories. China's food safety watchdog said formaldehyde, illegal dyes, and industrial wax were being used to make candy, pickles, crackers, and seafood, the official China Daily newspaper reported.

China is fighting to overcome intense criticism for exporting unsafe products ahead of next summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, a great source of national pride. Authorities in China have pushed for more stringent controls and increased publicity of their efforts to control the problem.

Chinese-made toothpaste has been rejected by several countries in North and South America and Asia, while Chinese wheat gluten tainted with the chemical melamine was blamed for deaths of dogs and cats in North America. Other products turned away or recalled by US authorities include toxic fish, juice containing unsafe color additives, and popular toy trains decorated with lead paint.

Yesterday, three Japanese importers recalled millions of Chinese-made travel toothpaste sets, many sold to inns and hotels, after they were found to contain as much as 6.2 percent of diethylene glycol.

The chemical is a thickening agent used in antifreeze, and is also used as a low-cost but sometimes deadly substitute for glycerin, a sweetener in many drugs.

There were no reports of health problems from the toothpaste. Chinese officials have said tests carried out in 2000 by Chinese researchers proved that toothpaste containing less than 15.6 percent diethylene glycol was harmless.

Meanwhile, US regulators ordered Foreign Tire Sales Inc. of Union, N.J., to recall as many as 450,000 tires after the company said an unknown number of light truck radials imported from Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co. could suffer tread separation.