Despite stern warnings from the US Food and Drug Administration against using toothpaste imported from China, Taiwan's Bureau of Foreign Trade yesterday said it had no plans to test all imported toothpaste for traces of diethylene glycol (DEG).
"We will work closely with the Department of Health as soon as the health authorities decide what to do," James Wu (吳新華), spokesman and deputy director-general of the bureau said, in a telephone interview.
"But for the moment, we have no plan to ask customs officials to stop all toothpaste -- whether it's from China or other parts of the world -- from entering Taiwan," he said.
Taiwan imported a total of 82.77 million kilograms of toothpaste worth US$21.36 million from China last year, the nation's customs statistics showed.
Wu said toothpaste imports are not subject to inspection by the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection, unless the products are meant for medical use.
The Ministry of Economic Affairs said earlier this week that official Taiwanese imports of Chinese-made toothpaste did not contain diethylene glycol. However, it could not confirm whether any such Chinese imports were brought in and sold at local stores.
Wu didn't elaborate on what actions the ministry would take and if they would involve a thorough inspection of local store shelves.
"That will depend on the health authorities' final decision," he said.
Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs Director Liao Chi-chou (廖繼洲) said yesterday that the health department only directly supervises two brands of toothpaste with claims to medical efficacy, and both are made in Taiwan.
"I cannot comment on whether or not we have imported other, non-medicated toothpastes from China," he said.
However, Liao warned the public to discard any toothpaste from China, saying: "The DEG is a cheap substitute for glycerine. It has similar physical properties, but it damages the kidneys."