Offices After Product Scares
(Associated Press –
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will open three
offices in China this week
in an unprecedented effort to improve the safety of exports headed to America
amid recurring product safety scares.
The new FDA offices, which are the first outside of the United States,
will increase effectiveness in protecting for American and Chinese consumers,
according to the office of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike
Leavitt and the agency's Food and Drug Commissioner Andrew
von Eschenbach will open the first office in Beijing on Wednesday, followed by one in Guangzhou and another in Shanghai.
''Establishing a permanent FDA presence in China
will greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness of our regulatory
cooperation and our efforts to protect consumers in both countries,''
Leavitt's office said in a statement last week.
Safety issues involving the blood thinner heparin, food
and other products imported from China has put pressure on the FDA
to boost its international presence. In the heparin case, a Chinese-made
component contained a contaminant linked to as many as 81 deaths and hundreds
of allergic reactions.
In October, cribs made in China were included in a recall
of 1.6 million cribs issued by New York-based Delta Enterprises.
Last year, U.S.-based Mattel Inc. recalled more than 21
million Chinese-made toys worldwide. Products including Barbie doll
accessories and toy cars were pulled off shelves because of concerns about
lead paint or tiny, detachable magnets that might be swallowed.
Leavitt has said 13 employees will be assigned to work in
the FDA offices in China
but has not said what their role will be. He plans to make opening facilities
in India and Central America his next priority.
Leavitt plans to attend two workshops conducted by
American and Chinese government during his visit to Beijing.
The sessions will address outbreaks of food-related
illnesses in the U.S.
related to fresh produce as well as melamine contamination in Chinese dairy
products which have sickened tens of thousands of babies, the HHS statement
said. The nitrogen-rich chemical is used in the manufacture of plastics and
The groups will also discuss reforms that could improve
the safety of consumer products and will exchange data on the toxicity to
humans of melamine, which was added to Chinese milk to make it appear
protein-rich in quality tests that measure nitrogen.
On Monday, the European Union and China signed an agreement to
cooperate better on consumer safety. Under the agreement, the two sides will
more quickly swap information on tainted food and other dangerous goods. The
deal also allows officials from the EU and China to carry out coordinated
checks on producers to ensure safety standards are met. 11-17-08