FDA opens first foreign office in Beijing this week

Following up on a story we brought you last month about the FDA setting up offices on foreign soil to provide guidance on U.S. food and drug quality standards, the FDA announced today that the first three of its offices will open this week in China, according to the Associated Press.

The move is part of the agency’s effort to place more than 60 food and drug regulators worldwide over the next year. The offices replace the FDA’s previous practice of sending staffers on individual assignments to inspect foreign facilities.

The agency’s Beijing office, which opens Wednesday, will be the first. Thirteen employees will be assigned to work in the China offices.

The AP quoted a statement from the office of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt: “Establishing a permanent FDA presence in China will greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness of our regulatory cooperation and our efforts to protect consumers in both countries.”

The FDA is placing offices worldwide with particular attention to India, Latin America and the Middle East. However, placing offices in China became a priority as a result of numerous reports of contaminated food and drug products manufactured in China. Among the products made in China and recalled by the FDA were batches of the blood thinner heparin, which were found to have been contaminated with over-sulfated chondroitin sulfate (OACA). More than 80 Americans and hundreds more fell ill after receiving the contaminated heparin.