The top US food safety authority will dispatch more inspectors to China to help ensure the quality of exports, making its China office the largest one overseas, according to a senior US official.
As early as next year, staff at the China office will be boosted to 21 from the current four, and nine of them will be responsible for food safety, said Christopher J. Hickey, FDA China director. Currently there are only two in food safety, while the rest are in charge of drugs and medical devices.
China is the fourth-largest exporter of food to the US.
Meanwhile, citing a globalized food and drug supply chain, China is also considering sending safety inspectors to the US, said Wu Yongning, chief scientist from the China National Center For Food Safety Risk Assessment.
Wu said that given China’s sheer size, the increase of US FDA inspectors would allow more on-site inspections of particularly high-risk producers.
“That helps with China’s domestic food safety as well in terms of supervision over the industry,” he said.
Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods at the Food and Drug Administration, said the staff increase is “important for us as that permits us to work more closely with our Chinese counterparts to become knowledgeable about practices here.”
“We can work with both the Chinese government and the industry to explain our requirements and provide trading support for those exporting to the US to comply with our standards,” he said.
Priorities include agriculture, farm produce, seafood and animal drugs, he noted.
Worldwide, the FDA has small offices in Europe and Latin America. The one in China will be its largest overseas team of food inspectors.
“Food safety is a very dynamic challenge, and the food system is becoming more technologically complicated and global,” Taylor said.
“We need to ensure that all food imports to the US are up to our standards as well, and that’s why the partnership with major food trade partners like China is so important,” he noted.
It took at least two years for the FDA to reach an agreement on the increase.
Early on Nov 4, the food safety chief of the China Food and Drug Administration met with Taylor and said they would continue a staff exchange program and enhance cooperation to ensure food safety.