FDA Sets China For First Overseas Office; More To Follow

(Dow Jones Newswires, DC)


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will open its first overseas offices in China this year, as part of efforts to regulate food sent to the United States, an official said Thursday.


Offices will also be opened in India, Europe and Latin America for the first time, said Mike Leavitt, secretary of health and human services.


The move reflected the increased globalization of the world's food and drug trade, notably from developing to developed nations, he said.


"Increasing our presence overseas will provide greater protections to American consumers at home and benefit our host countries as well," Leavitt said. "Opening these offices will mark a key milestone in the globalization of our efforts to enhance the safety of imported food and medical products."


Food quality concerns are paramount for the FDA after recent high profile cases involving China.


The first office will open by the end of 2008 in Beijing, with additional staff to be posted in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in 2009.


Over the last month, countries around the world have issued recalls and bans of Chinese-made dairy products because high levels of melamine were detected.


In total, 46,810 children were hospitalized after drinking milk tainted with melamine, which was added in place of water to increase volume.


Figures from China's Ministry of Health said 5,824 children were still receiving hospital treatment for kidney diseases due to the tainted products, according to a report from state news agency Xinhua.


"The globalization of the food supply and medical product manufacturing has demanded that we do things differently," said FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach. "We won't have to send our experts to another country to work with foreign governments and regulated industry to improve our oversight - we'll have staff living there and working on the ground 365 days a year."


Last year, the U.S. imported more than two trillion dollars worth of products from around 825,000 importers. 10-16-08




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