Leavitt 'optimistic' about U.S.-China meetings on food and drug safety

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Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, spoke yesterday about the United States-China bilateral meetings on the safety of food and drugs. Following is his statement:

This week in Beijing, a delegation of senior HHS and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials, led by my Chief of Staff Rich McKeown, held a series of initial meetings with senior officials from a number of agencies in the Government of the People's Republic of China. These agencies included the Chinese State Food and Drug Administration, the General Administration of Quality Supervision Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, and the Certification and Accreditation Administration.

Our shared goal for these sessions was to advance discussions towards drafting and agreeing on two Memoranda of Agreement (MOA), one on the safety of food and feed, and one on the safety of drugs and medical devices. I am pleased to report that this week's talks established basic frameworks for the two draft MOAs. Our vision for these MOAs aims to increase cooperation and information sharing between the U.S. and Chinese governments on these safety issues, and, at the request of the Chinese, to enhance the technical capacity of China's regulatory agencies to help ensure Chinese exports to the United States meet U.S. safety standards.

In our bilateral talks, the HHS delegation discussed specific issues of concern, including the import alert issued by the FDA on five farm-raised seafood products intended for export from China to the United States. Our delegation offered technical assistance to AQSIQ to address systemic problems related to safety of these products, and to provide AQSIQ with a clear understanding of the import alert process and the steps Chinese exporters and U.S. importers must take under the import alert to demonstrate compliance with U.S. requirements and safety standards.

The HHS delegation also offered to work with AQSIQ to enable it to assist a given firm under an import alert to take the steps needed to meet FDA's specific requirements for exemption from that import alert. If successful, this approach could be a model for other firms affected by an import alert.

I am optimistic about our initial progress with our Chinese colleagues, and I am hopeful the next series of bilateral meetings later this month, in Beijing, will keep us moving forward.