The Checkout

Food and Drug Adminstration Opening Offices in China

Annys Shin

Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Levitt announced that finally, after months of negotiation and bureaucratic slogging, the FDA will be sending permanent staff to China. The first office will be in Beijing and two more offices, one in Shanghai and the other in Guangzhou, will open sometime next year, for a total of eight FDA staffers.

The stationing of U.S. product and food safety personnel overseas was a key part of the Bush Administration's response to 2007's wave of recalls. The recent melamine-tainted infant formula scandal has not exactly boosted consumer confidence in China's safety regulators.

Leavitt is scheduled to travel to China next month to meet with Chinese health officials to review efforts to ensure the safety of food and medical products, particularly imports.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission also jumped through many a hoop to get people stationed in China. The agency had all the necessary approvals but then a little thing called the financial crisis got in the way and it won't be getting an additional $20 million in funding needed to implement the new product safety law, including sending folks to China. The CPSC staffers who will be sent there eventually aren't inspectors. Their purpose is to provide technical assistance to Chinese manufacturers and regulators, which if you happened to watch any of the public meetings the CPSC has given for U.S. manufacturers, you will know is in big demand. It's a lot to sort out in a short time.

So consumers will have to hope that manufacturers and regulators there are studying up on the new law and its requirements.

This is the last holiday shopping season before the new product safety law fully kicks in. Many key provisions, such as the first reduction in the lead standard, don't kick in until February. So shop carefully everyone!

By Annys Shin |  October 20, 2008; 12:11 PM ET Annys Shin
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