The New York Times follows up on the Chinese poisoning story, this time retracing the steps of a failed F.D.A. investigation of the poisoning of scores of Haitian children over ten years ago. The circumstances of the poisoning were similar to those of the
The Americans had reason for alarm. “The
imports a lot of Chinese glycerin and it is used in ingested products such as toothpaste,” Mary K. Pendergast, then deputy commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, wrote on Oct. 27, 1997. Learning how diethylene glycol, a syrupy poison used in some antifreeze, ended up in Haitian fever medicine might “prevent this tragedy from happening again,” she wrote. U.S.
The F.D.A.’s mission ultimately failed. By the time an F.D.A. agent visited the suspected manufacturer, the plant was shut down and Chinese companies said they bore no responsibility for the mass poisoning.
Ten years later it happened again, this time in Panama. Chinese-made diethylene glycol, masquerading as its more expensive chemical cousin glycerin, was mixed into medicine, killing at least 100 people there last year. And recently, Chinese toothpaste containing diethylene glycol was found in the
and seven other countries, prompting tens of thousands of tubes to be recalled. United States
The F.D.A.’s efforts to investigate the Haiti poisonings, documented in internal F.D.A. memorandums obtained by The New York Times, demonstrate not only the intransigence of Chinese officials, but also the same regulatory failings that allowed a virtually identical poisoning to occur 10 years later. The cases further illustrate what happens when nations fail to police the global pipeline of pharmaceutical ingredients.
It doesn’t make much sense for a