Hong Kong’s customs department is “looking into” the safety of Colgate-Palmolive Co.’s Total toothpaste, which contains the chemical triclosan.
The inquiry follows an Aug. 11 report by Bloomberg News highlighting studies linking the chemical to cancer-cell growth and disrupted development in animals. Recently released parts of Colgate’s Total application the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved in 1997, taken alongside new research on triclosan, raise questions about whether its approval should stand, said three scientists who reviewed the material.
Toothpaste is regulated under the city’s Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance, which “requires manufacturers, importers and suppliers to ensure that all consumer goods they supply comply with the general safety requirement,” Hong Kong’s Customs and Excise Department said in an e-mailed response to questions.
The Aug. 11 report “unfairly questions the U.S. FDA’s safety review of Colgate Total,” Colgate-Palmolive’s Hong Kong office said in a faxed statement today. “Colgate Total users can be fully confident in the safety of our toothpaste.”
Hong Kong Customs plans to investigate the report and “seek professional advice from the Department of Health,” the agency said in a separate e-mailed statement. “Under the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance, it is an offense to supply, manufacture or import into Hong Kong consumer goods unless the goods comply with the general safety requirements.”
Some consumer-product companies are abandoning the use of triclosan in products.
Colgate has stood by its use in Total, citing the rigorous FDA process that led to the toothpaste’s approval as an over-the-counter drug.
In response to the Bloomberg story, Colgate said that Total’s effectiveness and safety were supported by more than 80 clinical studies involving 19,000 people.
“In the nearly 18 years that Colgate Total has been on the market in the U.S., there has been no signal of a safety issue from adverse-event reports,” said Thomas DiPiazza, a company spokesman.
The South China Morning Post previously reported on the inquiry by Hong Kong Customs. The Department of Health said that it hadn’t received “any adverse reaction reports related to the use of triclosan-containing products,” and it would continue monitoring the latest research on the chemical.
The FDA, in response to a Bloomberg News inquiry, said the agency’s concerns about carcinogenicity had been resolved by a cancer study that was submitted in January 1997. The study, which the FDA put on its website following a Bloomberg News inquiry, “supports the FDA’s conclusion that does not pose a cancer risk for humans,” DiPiazza said.