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U.S.-China Trade Talks Yield Food Safety PactsU.S.-China Trade Talks Yield Food Safety Pacts

December 18, 2007

2 Min Read
U.S.-China Trade Talks Yield Food Safety Pacts

BEIJINGWeek-long trade talks in early December between U.S. and Chinese officials produced two food safety agreements to ensure foods, drugs and other exports from China meet U.S. standards. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agreements mandate Chinese producers of the affected products must register with local authorities and submit to annual inspections to ensure U.S. standards are met. Forged by FDA officials from each country, the pacts cover a range of food items, farming feed, drugs and medical devices, including some of the products involved in the food safety scares of the past year--wheat gluten, rice protein and farm-raised fish. While the first pact covers food, pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements are covered under the second agreement. The two agreements, which resulted from talks initiated more than six months prior, were the most prominent of 14 industry-specific pacts signed between China and the United States at the end of their annual, one-day Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, which kicked off the trade talks; a two-day Strategic Economic Dialogue was planned to follow.

The agreements satisfy our firm principle that any country that desires to produce goods for American consumers must do so in accordance with American standards of quality and safety, said Mike Leavitt, secretary of HHS, in a statement. To help accomplish this, the two documents apply a three-pronged strategy of registration, certification and verification. Taken together, these agreements will enhance the safety of scores of household items the American people consume on a daily basis.

Leavitt explained all Chinese producers of items covered under the agreement must register with Chinese authorities, who will share that data with HHS. Also, Chinese regulators will certify that food and feed covered by the agreement meet U.S. standards, and will pursue a method to certify medical products. To verify compliance, the Chinese are adopting quality assurance methods for every step of production. For example, Chinese authorities will develop a comprehensive electronic tracking system to follow products from production to exportation., he said, adding this will help ensure growers and manufacturers are building quality into their processes and action can be taken if they do not follow these processes. Another critical aspect of these agreements is information sharing. Chinese authorities have pledged to provide timely notification to U.S. regulators under a wide range of circumstances, including the failure of a facility to meet inspection requirements and the suspension or revocation of a manufacturers certification status. He noted inspectors from the U.S. FDA will also gain broader access to Chinese production facilities and on an expedited basis.

For more information on the pacts, visit HHS.gov.

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