NEW YORK—The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be establishing its first office in China this week.
Between Nov. 19 and Nov. 21 three FDA offices will be established in China. The first will be in Beijing, followed by others in Guangzhou and Shanghai. There are also plans to establish an FDA branch in New Delhi, India.
Toxic substances such as melamine, an industrial polymer not for human consumption, are being discovered in Chinese food products. Melamine poisoning has caused sickness and death in Chinese infants. The establishment of the foreign FDA offices will aim at protecting U.S. consumers from such products.
“The globalization of the food supply and medical product manufacturing has demanded that we do things differently,” said FDA Commissioner Andrew C. von Eschenbach in a Oct. 16 Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) press release. “Through our Beyond our Borders initiative, 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.”
Personnel at the overseas FDA branches will work closely with local authorities and industries that are involved in the shipments of food and medical products. They will conduct inspections, provide advice, and work on developing certification programs.
Von Eschenbach and Mike Levitt, secretary of the HHS, will be in China for the week of Nov. 17 to hold workshops, discuss with Chinese officials, and establish the first overseas branches of the FDA.
“We’re making steady progress to better safeguard our supply of food and medicines, though much work remains,” said Leavitt. “In the past year, we’ve upgraded labs and equipment, hired additional staff, and begun implementing product safety agreements with key trading partners, including China.”
During the first workshop in China on Nov. 18, Levitt and von Eschenbach will meet with Chen Zhu, the Chinese minister of health, to discuss reforms and ways to improve product safety. The second workshop, which will be held the following day, will address issues of melamine contamination and food-borne outbreaks. There will also be talks about the toxicity of melamine to humans.