US FDA head says China improving food, drug safety

Aug 13th, 2010 | By admin | Category: Featured

The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says China is improving its oversight of its exporters following a slew of scandals over bogus or substandard drugs and foods ranging from vaccines and infant formula to dog chow.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said Friday that Chinese officials she spoke with during her first visit to China since she was appointed were pursuing a “common agenda” to improve manufacturing practices and regulation of complex supply chains for the food and drug industries.

“I leave feeling very encouraged by the partnership we’ve developed here,” Hamburg said.

“This is a priority for China as it is for the United States,” she said.

Since President Barack Obama appointed Hamburg last year, the FDA has taken swift action against companies selling bogus or dangerous products, seeking to restore its credibility. FDA officials say a skimpy budget and weak regulations keep them from going after companies that break the rules.

Hamburg, who has spent her career working in public health, said the agency is focusing on prevention, given the complexity and enormity of the global supply chains for both food and drug products.

The FDA has set up offices in three Chinese cities, including Shanghai, and is cooperating in training and joint inspections, among other areas.

More than 20 million imports of FDA-regulated products are expected this year, but typically less than 1 percent are inspected. Earlier this year, the FDA began using an automated system to sort through millions of foreign shipments and identify food and drugs that are most likely to be contaminated.

Still, relying on inspections is not enough in a 21st century of manufacturing by hundreds of thousands of factories around the world, Hamburg said.

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