FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Contact: HHS Press Office
Statement by Secretary Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, On Signing Memoranda of Agreement between the United States and The People’s Republic of China to Improve the Safety of Food, Feed, Drugs and Medical Devices
Six months ago, my colleagues in China and I began a conversation about how we could improve the safety of the food and health products upon which our two countries have come to rely. Four sets of formal talks followed, and today in Beijing we signed two important Memoranda of Agreement, one concerning food and feed, and the other drugs and medical devices. These strong, action-oriented documents require specific steps and set clear deadlines. Taken together, these agreements will enhance the safety of scores of household items the American people consume on a daily basis.
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. To help accomplish this, the two documents apply a three-pronged strategy of registration, certification and verification.
First, all Chinese producers of items covered under the agreement must register with Chinese authorities, who will share that data with HHS. Second, Chinese regulators will certify that food and feed covered by the agreement meet our standards. They will pursue a method to certify medical products as well. Third, to verify compliance, the Chinese are adopting quality-assurance methods every step of the way. For example, Chinese authorities will develop a comprehensive electronic tracking system to follow products from production to exportation. This will help ensure that growers and manufacturers are building quality into their processes and that we can take action if they do not.
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 manufacturer’s certification status. Inspectors from HHS’ Food and Drug Administration will also gain broader access to Chinese production facilities and on an expedited basis.
President Bush has made ensuring the safety of imported products a top priority. This summer, he appointed me to chair a Cabinet-level Working Group on Import safety, made up of twelve Federal Departments and agencies. We crisscrossed the country, and talked with those on the front lines to gain a better understanding of how the import process works, and how the private sector and we in government can improve it.
Over the course of that work, I found the United States has a good system to assure the safety of imports today, but it is not adequate for the future. This year alone, we will import $2 trillion worth of goods into this country from 825,000 importers, through more than 300 points of entry. Also, analysts expect that volume of trade to continue to grow sharply. To keep up with the pace of global commerce, we need a fundamental shift, from trying to catch unsafe products as they come in, to building quality and safety into products before they reach our borders.The Action Plan on Import Safety I presented to President Bush on November 6 articulates this new approach, and the agreements with the Chinese government we signed today embody it. These agreements are an important contribution to the U.S. government’s efforts to enhance the safety of imported goods, and I look forward to seeing concrete, measurable results as we implement them.
Drugs and Medical Devices Agreement>>
Food and Feed Agreement>>
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Last revised: January 20, 2009