The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it has renewed an agreement with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine of China (AQSIQ) to enhance cooperation between the U.S. and China on food and feed safety. The two countries entered into the original agreement in 2007, and the announcement extends the agreement for an additional five years.
The agreement includes:
• enhancement of FDA’s ability to identify high-risk food products entering the United States from China.
• collaboration to facilitate inspections of facilities that process and produce food.
• a focus on high-risk foods frequently exported from China to the United States, including canned and acidified foods, pet food and aquaculture.
• the creation of processes for FDA to accept relevant, verified information from AQSIQ regarding registration and certification.
In November 2008, after the two countries signed the original agreement, FDA opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. These offices have enhanced public health protection by strengthening FDA’s relationship with Chinese food safety authorities, performing inspections, conducting outreach to Chinese industry representatives regarding FDA requirements, and gathering information on trends and events that affect the safety of food exported from China to the United States.
In the five years since the signing of the original agreement, FDA has made significant progress in numerous areas, including:
• Increased inspections of Chinese food facilities. By establishing a permanent inspection presence in China, FDA has dramatically increased its overall number of facility inspections—from no inspections in 2007 to 85 in 2011.
• Enhanced cooperation on high-risk foods. In conjunction with AQSIQ, FDA experts have conducted workshops for members of the Chinese industry on FDA requirements for several categories of high-risk foods, including low-acid canned foods and farm-raised fish. As a result, Chinese regulators have implemented more stringent oversight of canneries shipping products to the United States. FDA and AQSIQ have also worked jointly to identify strategic ways to address problems associated with use of unsafe drugs in growing ponds at Chinese fish farms.
• Enhanced collaboration with Chinese food-safety authorities. FDA has significantly deepened its understanding of China’s food safety system, developed key relationships with Chinese regulators, and now meets regularly with Chinese food safety officials in face-to-face talks on matters of mutual concern. FDA frequently holds joint workshops with Chinese food regulators to provide training and build regulatory capacity, and specify FDA standards and requirements for industry.
• Joint outreach on the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Since enactment of FSMA in 2011, FDA has worked with AQSIQ to conduct multiple outreach events for Chinese food safety officials and regulated industry on the impact this historic new law will have on Chinese food exports to the United States.
• Confidence-building in laboratory work. In the aftermath of problems associated with melamine in dairy products in China, FDA worked directly with AQSIQ to enhance FDA’s understanding of and confidence in China’s laboratory system for testing food. This work laid the groundwork for future scientific collaboration in this area.