FDA aims to improve safety of food imports

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Public health, International trade

Improving the safety of imported food is one of the aims behind a new initiative from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Beyond Our Borders campaign aims to assure high standards of safety for the $2 trillion worth of products imported into the US from more than 150 countries around the world.

As the volume of imports regulated by FDA has doubled in the past five years, the organisation has decided to collaborate with its foreign counterparts, to learn more about foreign exporters and their products, to provide technical assistance to foreign regulators and industries and to open overseas offices in some foreign countries.

Health challenges

Welcoming the initiative Murray M. Lumpkin, the FDA's deputy commissioner of international and special programs said: "Public health challenges know no borders, and public health officials and regulators must work together to address many of the public health and safety issues that confront us today.​"

Without identifying food scandals such as melamine contamination of milk supplies in China, the administration points out that products come from countries with little ability to provide the regulatory oversight needed to assure the safety of the products exported.

It also identifies what it describes as: “Lax oversight in many foreign places presents opportunities for products to be unintentionally contaminated, or intentionally contaminated by those who mean harm, by counterfeiters, or by those who try to profit by cutting corners​."

Exporting countries

Partnership with exporting countries will be a key driver of success, according to Lumpkin. "While the agency has partnered with its foreign regulatory counterparts for many years, the Beyond Our Borders initiative is intended to advance and enhance those partnerships in many new ways​," he said.

Meanwhile, last month secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt and FDA commissioner von Eschenbach opened FDA's first overseas offices in China. China is a major producer and exporter of FDA-regulated products to the US.

FDA's China offices are set up to accommodate eight FDA experts from the US and five local Chinese nationals. In addition to senior technical experts in Beijing, the US contingent will include inspectors who will work out of offices in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Related topics: Regulation

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