US and China Plough through Food and Safety Dialogue

August 2, 2007
Angie Drakulich

Angie Drakulich was editorial director of Pharmaceutical Technology.

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

A US delegation of health officials is visiting China this week on a fact-finding mission regarding food and drug safety.

Beijing (August 1)-A US delegation of health officials is visiting China this week on a fact-finding mission regarding food and drug safety. The mission comes on the heels of the May 2007 US–China Strategic Economic Dialogue and is meant to spark future discussions in an effort to create bilateral agreements on food and feed safety, as well as on drug and medical device safety by the year’s end, according to a July 30 statement from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Specifically, said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, the United States is looking to attain three things: “better cooperation,” “better information,” and “to have the Chinese devise and enforce regulations that we can understand, with which we agree, and in which we feel confident.”

China’s exports have been highlighted negatively in the news the past several months after a number of “made in China” products, including pet food, toothpaste, juice, and fish, were contaminated. The US Food and Drug Administration has since stepped up inspections and banned imports of several Chinese farm-raised foods to eliminate any potential health risks. China has responded by tightening its inspections of US imports, and even banned food shipments from entering the country.

“Our US regulatory agencies are concerned about what they see as insufficient infrastructure across the board in China to assure the safety, quality, and effectiveness of many products exported to the United States,” said HHS.

In response, China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi stated that, “China is willing to strengthen cooperation with the United States in quality testing, quarantine, and inspection.” This statement was made on the eve of this week’s Association of South East Asian Nations summit in Manila, the largest Asia-Pacific security summit, according to a Reuters article by John Ruwitch.

The result of this week’s and future meetings between US and Chinese representatives will be included in the recommendations of the US Working Group on Import Safety, chaired by Leavitt. This report will be presented to President George W. Bush in September.