FDA to set up camp in China

The Food & Drug Administration is to establish a network of offices in China as part of a bid improve safety controls on Chinese products exported to the US.

The China Daily said US Health Secretary Michael Leavitt, speaking in Beijing, had confirmed FDA plans to station up to 10 staff at three locations in the country, including the US embassy.

Co-operation between FDA and its counterparts in China would be enhanced through the agency's presence in China, he said, adding: "Currently, we are waiting for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to approve it."

According to the China Daily, Leavitt revealed the US had changed its strategy in terms of ensuring the safety of goods imported into the country. "In the past, we were just stationed at the borders attempting to catch unsafe products," he told the newspaper.

He added: "For the next step, we intend to open similar offices in India, which, just like China, supplies a lot of goods to the US."

The news comes against a backdrop of increasing concern about the safety of products imported to the US from China.

Scares involving products such as toothpaste and pet food have even prompted some retailers to stop selling certain Chinese products.

More recently, a consignment of heparin, the blood thinning drug, from China was discovered to have been contaminated with over-sulphated dermatan chondroitin. The tainted drug has been blamed for as many as 81 deaths in America.

Chinese officials recently published a draft food safety regulation as part of moves to get tough on food companies supplying unsafe products. The law covers monitoring of food safety, recalls and the issuing of information. Punishments for breaking the rules include fines, revocation of production certificates and prison terms ranging from three years to life.

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