Allergens in toothpaste

Upsetting reports coming in from the US via FATE suggest that a young girl, Denise Saldate, has died after using a toothpaste containing milk protein, to which she was severely allergic.

The cause in this sad case appears to have been a Recaldent(TM)-based toothpasteRecaldent being a milk (casein) derivative. The oral care products containing this ingredient, such as MI Paste One and GC Tooth Moose, don’t appear to be commercially available in America, but can be given or prescribed by dental professionals.

Toothpastes, at least in the EU, are classified as cosmetics and are therefore subject to cosmetic not food regulations. Ingredients must be listed, albeit in INCI format, which aren’t always the most allergy-friendly to navigate. Milk, for instance, when used, might appear as ‘lac’ — Latin for milk. ‘Caprae lac’ — goat’s milk — is commonly seen on products such as soaps. There is no requirement for food (or other) allergens to be distinguished by highlighting in bold or other form of emphasis, nor for them to appear under their common everyday name when derivatives are used.

Although I’ve not heard of any mainstream and widely available toothpastes containing food allergens, some more obscure toothpastes certainly do. Zendium Complete Protection Toothpaste (pictured right) contains both egg and milk. Although there is a ‘contains egg, milk’ notice on the labelling, the list of ingredients themselves only mention ‘lysozyme’ (an enzyme derived from egg white) and ‘colostrum’, ‘lactoferrin’ and ‘lactoperoxidase’ (all from milk) which can be easily overlooked.

Splat Zero Balance toothpaste also contains lysozyme, presumably from egg, despite describing itself as ‘hypoallergenic’.

There are others too. I’ve not come across any toothpastes using nut oils, however.

Chitodent toothpaste, a German flavour-free toothpaste, contains chitin, which is derived from prawn shells, and may be unsuitable to those with shellfish allergy, as it certainly is to vegetarians.

Chitodent is a low-salicylate product, useful for those sensitive to these aspirin-like compounds commonly found in many plants, and present in high levels in toothpaste flavourings such as mint. These strong flavourings — cinnamon is another common culprit — can be the cause of both sensitivities and allergies, as well as a source of distress for some children who dislike strong tastes, such as those with autism who may be particularly sensitive. If you need them, you may find other suggestions for ‘low-flavour’ products in my article on Salicylate Free Toothpaste.

I’ll look further into allergens in toothpastes in the coming weeks and update this page with further safe / potentially unsafe products. Please leave a comment if you know of other products worth highlighting or looking into.

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