WEST COVINA, Calif. (FOX 11) - A young girl from West Covina, California, died after an allergic reaction to toothpaste. Denise Saldate, 11, suffered a fast-moving anaphylactic reaction to milk protein found in the toothpaste. The family says it was an ingredient in a new toothpaste prescribed by her dentist that sent Denise into anaphylactic shock. She was rushed to the hospital, but she died. The coroner called her death "accidental."
Denise's parents are now talking about her tragic death, trying to raise awareness that some non-food items might include allergens. The family says the girl's dentist had recommended a new professional-use toothpaste, but unfortunately the toothpaste had a milk protein, and that's what killed her.
There's no denying the appeal of Denise Saldate. On her YouTube channel, she's upbeat and charismatic. Her mother, Monique Altamirano, told FOX 11, "Denise was a ball of sunshine and would brighten up anybody's day."
Her father, Jose Saldate, added, "I know if I was having a bad day at work, she would know how to make me laugh."
Earlier this week, Dr. David Michalik was on Good Day LA in Los Angeles and talked about this rare fatal allergy:
Her parents said Denise was always happy, even though her life wasn't always typical. She had severe food allergies since birth, so her parents had to check food labels carefully. Even still, there would be some times that the food she ate would trigger an allergic reaction.
"She'd break out in hives. It was always the Benadryl or Hydroxyzine first, but if that didn't work, give her the Epi, and if that doesn't work, we'd take her to the emergency room," Monique said. "In this case, everything happened so fast, it was Epi and 9-1-1 immediately."
Beyond the grief, what has happened has put her parents on a mission to get better labeling on non-food items. Her mother says, "Our main concern was food. Toothpaste was never ever a threat to Denise, so what we've learned now is that it's not mandated for non-food items to note allergens on their products."
Denise's family knows that the best part of her lives on. She was an organ donor, and her heart was placed with a 9-year-old child, and her parents are happy to know that her heart is beating still. The family also discovered how supportive strangers could be. They closed their GoFundMe campaign when they more than doubled their funding goal.
The packaging on the toothpaste did indicate there was a milk-derived ingredient, but Monique says it was quite tiny. The company has offered sympathy to the family and released this statement:
"We are aware of a story on social media and various press sites regarding MI Paste® ONE. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to the family for their devastating loss. GC America takes product labeling and product safety very seriously and our MI Paste® products have had an exceptional safety profile in North America since sales began in 2004. MI Paste® ONE packaging and tube specifically warn, on all four sides and on both the front and back of the tube, that it contains milk protein. We are continuing to look into this matter."