China offices will open this year, HHS says

By year's end, the FDA will have three offices opened in China. That's what HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt has pledged, saying that negotiations with the Chinese for clearance to open those FDA branches "have made significant steps forward."

You'll recall that the U.S. and China signed agreements late last year to cooperate more closely on the safety of food, feed, drugs, and medical devices. That was after three very public scandals about Chinese-made ingredients in dog food, toothpaste, and cough medicine. Since then, an even bigger scandal broke--the heparin-contamination problems that have been linked to hundreds of severe allergic reactions and deaths--leading to increased pressure on FDA import safety.

But the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, so it's taking months to set up the promised FDA offices in China. One of the reasons, Leavitt says, is that the offices are seen not just as inspections outposts, but as instruments for "a new strategy" on food and drug safety.

- read the Wall Street Journal story