Colgate-Palmolive clear of fake toothpaste case

Toothpaste on toothbrushA US woman is suing the importer and retailer of a counterfeit Colgate-Palmolive toothpaste for $2m, saying it damaged her health.

Margaret Pellon had also filed a suit against Colgate-Palmolive itself, but Supreme Court Justice Joseph Maltese ruled that the company could not be held liable for the actions of a counterfeiter.

"Colgate-Palmolive is not responsible for counterfeit products sold in the marketplace that violate their trade name and trademarks, which was evident here," he wrote in a ruling on the case.

It had "submitted adequate testimony demonstrating that Colgate did not manufacture the toothpaste at issue in this action," he added.

Pellon is proceeding with a lawsuit against a Dollar Worth store in Port Richmond, Staten Island, where she bought the toothpaste, as well as importer MS USA Trading Inc of New Jersey. She is claiming to have suffered gastrointestinal problems - including gastroenteritis - that led to her hospitalisation for four days.

A spokesman for the company told the court that the counterfeit product had various packaging discrepancies, including a different font on its labelling and an incorrect closure, and on laboratory analysis had been found to contain diethylene glycol (DEG).

DEG is used as a cheap substitute for glycerine and has been involved in the recall of several brands of toothpaste - generally imported from China - in recent years. It has been linked to dozens of deaths from adulterated pharmaceutical products, including a 2008 case in Nigeria, in which at least 84 children aged between 2 months and seven years died as a result of deliberate substitution of glycerine with DEG in a teething mixture.

Colgate-Palmolive as been plagued by counterfeiting for several years, and towards the end of last year warned that fakefive-ounce tubes of one of its products - thought to originate from South Africa - were circulating in discount stories in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

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