Whitemen Toothpaste in brush with law for labeling Chinese tubes as Taiwanese

Whitemen Toothpaste owner indicted for labeling Chinese toothpaste as made in Taiwan

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Packaging for Whitemen Toothpaste. (whitemen.com.tw photo)

Packaging for Whitemen Toothpaste. (whitemen.com.tw photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Kaohsiung prosecutors have indicted the head of Whitemen Toothpaste (白人牙膏) for falsely labeling over 3 million tubes of its toothpaste products as being made in Taiwan when they were in fact produced in China.

Earlier this year, Kaohsiung Customs officers seized more than three million tubes filled with Whitemen toothpaste arriving from China that were labeled as being produced in Taiwan. The lettering on the tubes read "Galien Whitemen" (嘉聯白人) and listed the address as being in Taiwan Chiayi County.

Prosecutors allege the fact that the labeling made no mention of the manufacturing haven taken place in Zhongshan City in China's Guangdong Province was a deliberate attempt to deceive consumers into thinking that the toothpaste was made in Taiwan. Therefore, prosecutors have indicted the head of Galien Industrial Co., Ltd. (嘉聯實業股份有限公司), surnamed Wang (王), for Offenses Against Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce (妨害農工商罪英文), reported UDN.

Wang denied any wrongdoing, claimed that the mislabeling of the packaging was due to a mixup at the factory, and insisted that Taiwanese hotels that receive mini-Whitemen products are all using Made-in-Taiwan toothpaste. Wang claimed that the company originally only imported the outer packaging for the toothpaste from the Zhongshan factory in China, but when the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began, work was halted at the factory.

He said that when work resumed, workers mistakenly included the Chinese paper packaging and empty toothpaste tubes labeled with the Taiwanese address together in the same containers. He added that in some cases, the workers were negligent in filling the 5-gram tubes with toothpaste and printed the Taiwan address on them.

Wang claimed that once the discrepancy was discovered, the mislabeled tubes were sent back to China. He then promised that none of the company's hotel clients had received the Chinese-made versions.

According to the indictment, the company set up a factory in Zhongshan City in 1999 to produce small packages of toothpaste to sell to hotels in Taiwan. Prosecutors allege that Wang "clearly knew" that the entirety of the toothpaste products was made in China.

When carrying out inspections of shipping containers in April of this year, Kaohsiung Customs officers found that 3.084 million 5-gram tubes of toothpaste were "falsely labeled" as "Galien Whitemen" with an address in Taiwan's Chiayi County, according to the indictment. During an investigation, Kaohsiung Customs officers provided "clear evidence," including the Kaohsiung Customs case transfer form, import declaration, the company's Zhongshan factory invoice, packaging, and weight list.

Prosecutors found numerous inconsistencies in Wang's defense and were not convinced about the veracity of his statements. As they believe Wang was not being truthful in his explanations, prosecutors have gone ahead with indicting him for Offenses Against Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce.

Whitemen toothpaste, which is most frequently seen in its miniature form in hotels across Taiwan, was sued by Darlie (formerly Darkie) Toothpaste for the similarity in brand name and appearance of the packaging. However, after 10 years of litigation, Taiwan's Supreme Administrative Court in 2010 ruled in favor of Whitemen concluding that consumers "would not confuse white with black."