HHS is preparing to open Food and Drug Administration offices in various parts of the world to better safeguard the nations supply of food and medicines, federal officials announced.
Were sending a clear signal to the world that if it wants access to our market, it needs to meet our standards for quality and safety, said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, who joined FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach in announcing the news to reporters.
The goal is to send 43 full-time employees to offices in China, Europe, India and Latin America by next year, said von Eschenbach. The new staff will work closely with local authorities and industries that ship food and medical products to the United States to improve safety, and conduct specific tasks such as additional inspections.
Its estimated that $30 million in initial costs will be needed to establish the offices, plus $20 million a year in continuing costs, von Eschenbach said.
China is the first of these geographic regions to give the U.S. formal approval to establish an office inside its borders. Formal approval is pending in India and other countries.
In staking out offices, we looked at where weve seen specific historic problems regarding rapid product spoilage, or toxic products, said Murray Lumpkin, the FDAs deputy commissioner for international and special programs.
To step up import safety efforts, HHS has asked Congress for additional powers. For example, HHS and FDA should have the authority to require certification of designated high-risk products as an additional condition of importation, according to an HHS statement. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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