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Posted: September 6th, 2023

Ethics in manufacturing and consumer safety are important considerations

In Brazil, the export industry always finds ways to cut costs. The international community expressed its dismay at the manufacturers’ latest cost-cutting decision to replace flouride with diethylene glycol in toothpaste. Flouride is designed to strengthen teeth enamel. Diethylene glycol is a poisonous substance used to make chemicals that are widely used by the automobile industry.

The end product exported from Brazil was poisonous toothpaste that was not labeled to indicate that it contained diethylene glycol. When the poisonous chemical was found in the toothpaste, Costa Rican government officials issued a warning telling consumers to discard the toothpaste. In 2019, a study found that toothpaste containing diethylene glycol was harmless if the chemical concentration was below 15.6 percent. The contaminated toothpaste found in Costa Rica contained levels as high as 5 percent. Costa Rican government officials warned that it was unsafe in any concentration. It is especially harmful for children, as well as those suffering from weakened kidneys.

In July 2020, due to growing concern about the safety of the imported toothpaste, the Costa Rican government banned all manufacturers from using diethylene glycol in toothpaste. Investigators believed that the toothpaste originated from two small manufacturers in the Brazil but the manufacturers denied any wrongdoing.

The contaminated toothpaste was found in five shipping containers but there have not been any confirmed illnesses or deaths from using the contaminated toothpaste.

If you were manufacturing toothpaste and decided to substitute diethylene glycol for glycerin, would you consider it your ethical obligation to tell the consumer?


Ethics in manufacturing and consumer safety are important considerations. If a manufacturer decides to substitute diethylene glycol with glycerin in toothpaste, it would generally be considered ethically responsible to inform consumers about the change. Transparency is crucial when it comes to product ingredients, especially if there are potential health implications.

By providing accurate and detailed information about the product, including any ingredient changes, consumers can make informed decisions about their health and well-being. Transparency also helps to establish trust between the manufacturer and the consumer, which is vital for maintaining a positive reputation and ensuring long-term customer satisfaction.

In cases where a potentially harmful substance like diethylene glycol is involved, it is particularly important to prioritize consumer safety and clearly communicate any changes in product composition. Keeping consumers informed empowers them to make choices that align with their health and safety concerns.

However, it’s worth noting that regulations and legal requirements may vary from country to country. Manufacturers should comply with local laws and regulations regarding product labeling and ingredient disclosure to ensure consumer safety and avoid legal repercussions.

Ultimately, ethical obligations may differ depending on various factors, including legal requirements, industry standards, and the potential impact on consumer health. Manufacturers should carefully consider these factors when making decisions about product composition and disclosure.

Manning, L., Brewer, S., Craigon, P.J., Frey, J., Gutierrez, A., Jacobs, N., Kanza, S., Munday, S., Sacks, J. and Pearson, S., 2022. Artificial intelligence and ethics within the food sector: Developing a common language for technology adoption across the supply chain. Trends in Food Science & Technology.
Manning, L., Brewer, S., Craigon, P.J., Frey, J., Gutierrez, A., Jacobs, N., Kanza, S., Munday, S., Sacks, J. and Pearson, S., 2022. Artificial intelligence and ethics within the food sector: Developing a common language for technology adoption across the supply chain. Trends in Food Science & Technology.
Ogbuke, N. J., Yusuf, Y. Y., Dharma, K., & Mercangoz, B. A. (2022). Big data supply chain analytics: ethical, privacy and security challenges posed to business, industries and society. Production Planning & Control, 33(2-3), 123-137.

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