The US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) has decided to send the first US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) staff to China, India, before the end of 2008. The HSS is also planning to open offices in Europe, and Latin America.

"We're making steady progress to better safeguard our supply of food and medicines, though much work remains. In the past year, we've upgraded labs and equipment, hired additional staff, and begun implementing product safety agreements with key trading partners, including China,” said, Mike Leavitt, Secretary, HSS"

" Opening these offices will mark a key milestone in the globalization of our efforts to enhance the safety of imported food and medical products. The globalization of the food supply and medical product manufacturing has demanded that we do things differently. Through the “Beyond our Borders” initiative, we won't have to send our experts to another country, but we'll have staff living there and working on the ground," said Andrew C. von Eschenbach, FDA Commissioner.

The first overseas office will be in China. The US government recently secured formal approval for the office from the Chinese government. . The first staff will be in place in Beijing this year. Staffs will be posted in Shanghai and Guangzhou next year.

The second overseas office will be in the India, with staff first posting in the country’s capital, New Delhi this year. At least one additional office will follow in 2009. Plans at present are for 10 US nationals to be posted in India. The US government is in the process of pursuing India's formal approval.

The HSS is also planning to open offices in Europe, and Latin America. Their collaborations could include sharing information on their respective regulatory systems and joint workshops and training on the safety of food and medical products. The parties will also make efforts to find opportunities for joint training for food-borne illnesses and the oversight of food traded internationally.

Previously, federal officials relied extensively on inspections at the border to ferret out unsafe goods, an approach that has not kept up with the exponential growth in global commerce. In addition to border checks, the plan called for partnering with producers of goods overseas to build in quality every step of the way. Some proposals in the action plan require new authorities to be granted by Congress.