- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2008

BEIJING

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will open three offices in China this week in an unprecedented effort to improve the safety of exports headed to America amid recurring product-safety scares.

The new FDA offices, which are the first outside of the United States, will increase effectiveness in protecting for American and Chinese consumers, according to the office of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt.

Mr. Leavitt and FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach will open the first office in Beijing on Wednesday, followed by one in Guangzhou and another in Shanghai.

“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,” Mr. Leavitt’s office said.

Safety issues involving the blood thinner heparin, food and other products imported from China has put pressure on the FDA to boost its international presence. In the heparin case, a Chinese-made component contained a contaminant linked to as many as 81 deaths and hundreds of allergic reactions.

In October, cribs made in China were included in a recall of 1.6 million cribs issued by New York-based Delta Enterprises.

Last year, U.S.-based Mattel Inc. recalled more than 21 million Chinese-made toys worldwide.

Products including Barbie doll accessories and toy cars were pulled off shelves because of concerns about lead paint or tiny, detachable magnets that could be swallowed.

Mr. Leavitt has said 13 employees will be assigned to work in the FDA offices in China but has not said what their role will be. He plans to make opening facilities in India and Central America his next priority.

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