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FDA establishes offices abroad to monitor products headed to U.S.


BEIJING The almost ubiquitous “Made in China” label has lost the confidence of many consumers over the last couple of years as hundreds of people and animals have become sick and died from Chinese products contaminated with chemicals.

Supplies of the blood-thinning drug heparin have come under particular scrutiny as almost 250 people have died and hundreds more have become sick after taking contaminated doses of the drug. On Nov. 6, the Food and Drug Administration seized 11 lots of heparin from Cincinnati-based Celsus Labs. The lots, manufactured from material imported from China, contained over-sulfated chondroitin sulfate, a contaminant that mimics heparin’s blood-thinning activity. Injection with heparin containing OSCS has been linked to several adverse reactions, including deaths.

To address the increasing risk of importation of contaminated food and drug products into the United States, the FDA has set up overseas offices in several countries, including three in China that opened last month.

The offices, in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, will analyze and examine products before their export to the U.S. The Department of Health and Human Services said they were part of an ongoing strategy to improve import safeguards to meet the changing demands of a global economy. HHS secretary Mike Leavitt and FDA commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach traveled to the three cities to meet with manufacturers and Chinese government officials to discuss policy and governance reforms for improving food and drug safety, as well as attending the offices’ grand openings and introducing officials who would work in them.

“A permanent FDA presence in China will help us address the challenges presented by globalization,” von Eschenbach said in a statement last month. “We look forward to working with the Chinese government and manufacturers to ensure that FDA standards for safety and manufacturing quality are met before products ship to the United States.”

The FDA is setting up similar offices in India, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. The Beijing office is on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy; the Guangzhou office is at the Consulate General; and the Shanghai office is in the Shanghai Centre, a business complex that is also home to other U.S. government offices.

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