FDA unveils strategy to ensure safety of imports

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"Global production of FDA-regulated goods has exploded over the past ten years," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement. "In addition to an increase in imported finished products, manufacturers increasingly use imported materials and ingredients in their U.S. production facilities, making the distinction between domestic and imported products obsolete."

The new strategy will require upfront investments in money, human resources and time, Hamburg acknowledged in a press call, but she said it would be worth it.

"This is really a way of leveraging [international] resources in some important new ways, sharing information as well as sharing effective strategies," Hamburg said, "so that I think at the end of the day this approach will enable us to use fewer resources to achieve an important and shared set of goals."

She went on to caution that the 2012 agriculture spending bill passed by the House last week was "enormously worrisome" because it cut spending of food safety by about $87 million below current levels.

"The reality is we'll do the very best job we can for the American people with the resources that we have," Hamburg said, "but we're facing a situation where we're being asked to do more with less and we really feel that this is of enormous concern."

Finally, FDA officials said they needed updated authority from Congress so the agency can modernize its registrations and listings, track trade and increase penalties and shift its focus from domestic to global exchanges. While the food safety act signed earlier this year makes some of those changes for food, the agency is requesting similar powers for medicines and medical devices.

This post was updated at 1 p.m. with comments from FDA officials

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