In response to recent problems in the safety of foods and other products imported into the U.S.A. from China - e.g. poisonous pet food and melamine-tainted dairy products - the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened its first overseas office in China. The agency will have offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to certify inspections of U.S-bound Chinese exports. The agency will also be opening other offices in the coming months in India and Latin America.

The United States imported approximately $2 trillion worth of goods last year, including $320 billions in products from China. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt stated, "…the volume of the goods has become so robust that it requires a change in strategy."

The aim of this new initiative is to help foreign governments strengthen their regulatory systems by setting quality standards, increasing the number of inspections outside of the U.S. and educating companies and their distributors. Approved third-party independent certifiers will be allowed, either private commercial labs or foreign government agencies, working under the supervision and oversight of the FDA.

For more information, please see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/18/AR2008111802926.html?hpid=moreheadlines and http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/world/11/19/ 1119foodsafety.html