A delegation of senior Health and Human Services (HHS) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials last week held a series of meetings with senior government counterparts from a number of Chinese agencies.
The agencies included the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration, the General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, and the Certification and Accreditation Administration.
Chinese exports have been linked to a series of food safety scares in the US, including tainted seafood and feed containing the banned chemical, melamine.
While bans, alerts and recalls react to food safety problems associated with Chinese products entering into the US antagonized relations between the two countries, sharing information and advising improvements can be seen as proactive measures to improve the quality of imports.
Mike Leavitt, secretary of health and human services, said the shared goal for the sessions was to advance discussions towards drafting and agreeing on principles relating to the safety of food and feed, on the safety of drugs and medical devices.
"Our vision for these MOAs aims to increase cooperation and information sharing between the US and Chinese governments on these safety issues, and, at the request of the Chinese, to enhance the technical capacity of China's regulatory agencies to help ensure Chinese exports to the United States meet US safety standards," he said.
During the bilateral talks, the HHS delegation discussed issues of concern, including the import alert issued by the FDA on seafood products destined for the US.
Technical assistance was offered to the AQSIQ to address systemic problems, while the alert process in place in the US was explained with instructions on what exporters and importers must do in the event of an alert.
The delegation also offered to work with AQSIQ to assist a Chinese company under an alert to meet the FDA's requirements and become exempt from the alert.
"If successful, this approach could be a model for other firms affected by an import alert," Leavitt said.
The secretary said he was optimistic about the initial stage of cooperation and that he hoped that a series of meetings due to be held in Beijing next month would make further progress.