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FDA, Chinese agency renew cooperation agreement

By Hank Schultz, 12-Dec-2012

Related topics: Regulation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has extended an agreement with a Chinese counterpart agency to work together on food and feed safety.

FDA announced Tuesday that the agreement with General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine of China (AQSIQ) to enhance cooperation, first concluded in 2007, will be extended for an additional five years.

The agreement includes:

Progress since 2008

After conclusion of the first agreement, FDA opened offices in China in late 2008 in  Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. According to the agency, these offices have strengthened FDA’s relationship with Chinese authorities and have greatly enhanced the agency’s ability to inspect food facilities in the country.

The need for greater cooperation between the two countries only increases as China exports more food products to the US and Chinese companies’ presence ramps up at US trade shows and more North American buyers make the trip to China to make business contacts.

“I've come across many Chinese companies at China based expos that do their best to pass themselves off as the manufacturer,” Jeff Crowther, executive director of the US-China Health Products Association told NutraIngredients-USA.

“You really have to do your homework in these cases because some trading companies typically do not have the appropriate certifications in place to satisfy FDA standards for safety. Since these trading companies in some cases are storing or holding the materials, its anyone's guess as to what conditions they are being held under and/or if any accidental or deliberate adulteration has occurred while under their care,” he said.

FDA laid out five areas in which it said significant progress has been made in the five years since the first agreement was signed.  These include:

Helping to enact FSMA

This last is of particular importance as some of the new requirements under FSMA have already taken effect and others are being delineated via a formal rule making which is now under way. China’s vast number of smaller companies make it a challenging regulatory environment, Crowther said.

“Under FSMA the burden lies with the US importer to verify that their foreign suppliers have adequate preventive controls in place to ensure safety. This is an important aspect of the regulation as many U.S. importers may in fact be buying from Chinese trading companies and not the actual manufacturer. As a buyer, it is sometimes a challenge to figure out if the China vendor you've found at an expo is the actual manufacturer or a trading company,” he said.

“When dealing with larger manufacturers in China, their certifications and paper work should be in order to satisfy FMSA. However, my concern would be with the smaller suppliers and trading companies. This is China's weak spot and will certainly cause US importers to work harder to ensure they are in fact working with a reputable partner that can provide them sufficient documentation to prove it.”