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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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How Do You Say Heparin Recall in Mandarin?

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The FDA, after years of criticism for its responses to food-sickness outbreaks and contaminated imports, unveiled a report on Monday that summarizes what officials call a "hugely ambitious" campaign to reshape its food and drug inspection channel.

Dr. David Acheson, the FDA’s associate commissioner for foods, told The New York Times, " The goal is to radically redesign the process." Meaning, instead of waiting until the food or product hits the U.S., the goal would be to try and detect the tainted products during the production process.

The last thing the FDA needs is another product coming from China or anywhere in Asia for that matter, and causing thousands upon thousands of consumers to fall ill. First there was tainted pet food, then came contaminated heparin and just recently milk containing melamine.

And, likely, due to the scrutiny the FDA’s faced over the past year, just under two weeks ago, the agency set up shop in Beijing to protect Americans from similar threats like the aforementioned.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "It’s the agency’s first overseas office and is part of the regulator’s effort to better scrutinize the large and growing number of foods and drugs that China ships into the U.S. ‘The FDA is a global regulatory body and expanding their footprint outside the U.S. is the first step in becoming more active in the global market,’ Patrick Ronan, a former chief of staff at the FDA, tells the Health Blog."

However, how is one, two or three FDA outposts in China going to blanket an enormous Chinese food industry that lacks adequate food safety controls? Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt optimistically thinks the FDA’s arrival in China marks the start of a "new era" and is a first step of many that will allow the FDA to work more closely with manufacturers and regulators abroad.

At the end of the day, whatever the FDA is able to do in China will come down to money, personnel and outside resources, three factors that it grapples with already in the United States. And, on top of that, the FDA still has a dull eye when it comes to spotting material that is imported from China and used to manufacturer products like Heparin. Heparin recalls will continue to occur in the U.S. due to this lack of oversight and will only be abated once the FDA can permeate itself throughout the Chinese food and drug industry, which, not to sound too pessimistic, is doubtful since the FDA has a hard enough time regulating food, drugs and appropriate product labels within the U.S.