Margaret Hamburg, the Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, is visiting China for the first time since she was appointed, and I was pleased to hear that in her remarks last Friday she said that China is working towards improving its oversight of exporters.
According to an AP article, Hamburg said that Chinese officials she spoke with were pursuing a "common agenda" to improve manufacturing practices and regulation of complex supply chains for the food and drug industries. In addition, she reported feeling "very encouraged by the partnership" developing between China and the US.
The FDA now has three offices in China and is collaborating with Chinese officials regarding training and joint inspections.
Of course, as Hamburg readily admits, relying on inspections alone is simply not adequate in today's global economy, which is fueled by a complicated network of hundreds of thousands of factories around the world. Although there's no doubt that beefed-up inspection programs will be beneficial, it's clear that the most meaningful advances in food and drug supply chain safety will result from companies, governments and other stakeholders working together and in partnership with suppliers to develop common standards and improve accountability.
Ultimately, as the old adage reminds us, "The proof is in the pudding." Over the past few years, there have been spectacular failures involving dangerous even deadly products manufactured in China, and until these serious problems with quality, purity, safety and delivery have been adequately addressed, I anticipate that many companies will continue to be justifiably wary about China sourcing strategies.