The melamine scare in China that has sickened thousands of infants has only gotten worse. Its effects have been tragic and have had worldwide reach; Products have been pulled from shelves in numerous countries due to melamine content.
The scandal has illustrated some of the regulatory problems in China; Lawsuits against the government are unlikely since they're viewed as a political threat, and there have been reports that the worst affected have been the poor.
And what about US food safety? The US imports a wide range of items from China.
The FDA announced today that it will open an office in China before the end of the year as part of the agency's plan to better regulate imports from the developing world, according to an AP report.
The article says the initial office will open in Beijing, and then the FDA will open outposts in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Other FDA offices will open in India, Latin America and the Middle East. The opening of FDA outposts is a break from the common practice of sending inspectors abroad on individual assignments.
Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, who oversees the FDA, is quoted in the article: "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."
After numerous food and drug safety scares over the past year, the FDA has received much criticism about a lack of effort to oversee food imports and many have called for greater food safety inspections. This is a step in the right direction, albeit a late one.
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