The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is in China this week to open three offices as a plan to improve the safety of U.S. imports. Bloomberg reports that according to Michael Leavitt, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, “A U.S. plan to allow quality testers in China to certify the safety of food and drugs exported to America will take many years to complete. Still, this is a major step for the FDA.
This is the first of several overseas offices (for FDA) with the goal of regulating the safety of imported food and medicine. The branch just opened in Beijing and in the next couple of months, FDA will open offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou. The New York Times says the opening of an inspection office in Beijing follows “a string of scandals involving contaminated Chinese-made toothpaste, pet food, drugs and milk.” See our past post on High Level of Lead Found in Toys from China.
These three new offices will work with the Chinese agencies to inspect products set to go to the U.S. The U.S. has imported more than $321 billion worth of goods from China last year.
However, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), according to Andrew Jacobs of the New York Times, said in a recent report, “FDA’s oversight and enforcement efforts have not kept in pace with the growing number of food firms. As a result, FDA has little assurance that companies comply with food-labeling laws and regulations.”
Safety for us as consumers is highly important and when we see FDA opening inspection office overseas, it seems like a good sign. But when the GAO is reporting a lack of sufficiency and organization, FDA needs to implement stronger organization to become more effective.