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New Ways To Keep Imports Safe

New Ways To Keep Imports Safe
Some unsafe goods from China, including toys contaminated with lead paint and tainted toothpaste, have caused recurring product safety scares in the United States and around the world.

The United States is committed to working with China and other countries to ensure the safety of imported goods into the United States. As part of a government-wide strategy, the U.S. has opened its first Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, office locations outside the USA in Beijing. FDA senior technical experts in these locations will work with Chinese government, industry, and third party certifiers to help ensure the safety of Chinese exports to the U.S.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said a new strategy was needed because the United States imports 2 trillion dollars' worth of goods a year. "When one sees the enormity of that," said Mr. Leavitt, "it becomes clear you cannot inspect everything ... we have to change our strategy from one of simple inspections at the border. We have to build quality into every product in every step of the process."

Health and Human Services is working to have an FDA presence in 5 geographic regions: China, India, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. "We are embarking on a system," said Mr. Leavitt, "that will recognize the need to ensure that everything that comes to the U.S. has been subject to either heightened scrutiny by our regulators or has been certified as meeting our standards by someone we trust."

In the meantime, the FDA has required increased testing of goods from China that are made with milk. It is to assure that foods purposely contaminated with melamine do not reach American consumers. Melamine is an industrial chemical found recently in Chinese dairy products that sickened more than 50,000 children with kidney problems and was blamed for the death of at least 4 infants in China. Importers must have products with Chinese dairy components tested by an independent laboratory that meets FDA standards before the product will be allowed into the U.S.

Establishing a permanent FDA presence in China should greatly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of regulatory cooperation and efforts to protect consumers in both countries. "A permanent FDA presence in China," said FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach, "will help us address the challenges presented by globalization. We look forward to working with the Chinese government and manufacturers to ensure that FDA standards for safety and manufacturing quality are met before products ship to the United States."