FDA to set up offices worldwide

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will place more than 60 food and drug regulators worldwide over the next year to provide guidance on U.S. quality standards, according to the Associated Press. This will replace the agency’s current practice of sending staffers on individual assignments to inspect foreign facilities.

“We are sending a very clear message to producers: if you want to have access to our market you need to make products that meet our standards of quality,” Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt was quoted in the story. Leavitt oversees the FDA and other federal health agencies.

While particular attention will be paid to India, Latin America and the Middle East, the FDA will make China a priority, establishing its first office in Beijing by the end of the year. The Beijing office will employ eight U.S. staffers. Additional outposts are planned for Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Products made in China have caused much heartache lately. Last spring, the FDA
recalled batches of heparin after some lots were found to have been contaminated while produced in Baxter International’s Chinese factory. The tainted heparin killed more than 80 people and sickened hundreds more.

Similarly, dozens more products made in China have been recalled over the past several months for harming people, including tainted baby formula, toys made with lead-based paint, and contaminated pet food.

Details on how the FDA will carry out the plan are unclear, as FDA officials admit that the hiring of several dozen more staffers, as the plan lays out, would not provide enough personnel to visit the thousands of plants around the world.