He said the seized toothpaste had been brought in from neighbouring Costa Rica by importers who were unaware the tubes were tainted.

 

Costa Rica and Panama earlier this month ordered the toothpaste pulled from shelves after finding it contained diethylene glycol.

 

Contraband

 

In Honduras meanwhile, authorities inspected two market places on Thursday and seized about 250 tubes of suspect toothpaste, which were sent for testing.

 

The government did not specify what brands were found, but urged the public not to use any toothpaste that may have entered the country as contraband.

 

"We think this probably entered the country illegally, and so distributing or selling it is also illegal," said Dr Carlos Aguilar, Honduras' assistant minister for health risks.

 

Earlier on Thursday a senior official from China's product-inspection agency pointed the finger at businesses in Panama, and not China, which he said were "mainly responsible" for passing off diethylene glycol as a medical ingredient.

 

Wei Chuanzhong, vice minister of the Administration for Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said Chinese companies sold the industrial solvent called TD glycerin to Spanish companies.

 

The product was then sold to Panamanian companies who used it to make cough syrup and other medicine, he said.

 

The toothpaste scare is the latest in a series of health alerts over Chinese-made food and drugs.

 

Earlier this week the former head of China's food and drug testing body was sentenced to death after he was found guilty of taking bribes.