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US Food, Drug Regulator Opens 1st Overseas Office in Beijing

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) opened its first overseas office on Wednesday.

The office will mainly be responsible for communicating with relevant regulatory departments in China and will help build up the country's food and drug safety supervision, said Mike Leavitt, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

"The establishment of this office will further promote and deepen the collaboration between China and the United States in the field of food and drug regulation," said Shao Mingli, director of China's State Food and Drug Administration, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

According to Leavitt, the FDA will also open offices in Guangzhou and Shanghai later this week. Eight inspectors and senior technical experts on food, medicine and medical devices have been appointed to work in these three offices.

Following the opening of the three FDA offices in China, China will also station its quality offices in the United States in the near future to keep a stringent check on imports from the United States.

China and the United States signed an agreement on the safety of drugs and medical devices in December 2007. The pact provides for regular senior officials' meetings, communication about legislation, information exchanges and technical cooperation.

Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu said both sides were willing to step up food safety cooperation and China was ready to sincerely and open-mindedly communicate with the US side, share experience and conduct international cooperation in the field in an open and reciprocal manner.

According to the minister, the Chinese government has beefed-up food safety supervision after the tainted milk powder scandal that sickened more than 50,000 infants.

Since September 14, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine has made more than 16,000 spot-checks of infant milk powder and liquid milk. All met restrictions on melamine levels, a chemical used to make plastics but recently added to milk to boost protein levels.

China is also setting up a national food safety risk assessment committee and a national inspection network, according to Chen.

The country will soon launch an action plan on food safety. The first step will be an overhaul on food additives, Chen said.

China also plans to step up relevant legislation to strengthen government supervision.

(Xinhua News Agency November 20, 2008)

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