The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced yesterday the opening of its new post in Mexico City. The new office is the FDA’s third in Latin America and the tenth international post the agency has opened in the past 13 months.

“The opening of this office represents an important step as we re-design our product safety strategy,” said FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, in a statement yesterday. “We, like our partners in the Mexican Government, realize that prevention is the key.”

The close trade ties between the U.S. and Mexico makes the new office a critical piece of the Obama administration’s revamped regulatory system. 

“More than a third of the fresh fruits and vegetables we eat come from Mexico, said Dr. Hamburg. Having FDA experts located permanently there will be mutually beneficial to both our countries and respective citizens.”

According to the FDA, the new post will work closely with the Mexican government to help harmonize regulations and improve food production standards. The agency will collaborate with Mexican public health officials by sharing information and lab technicques and holding joint safety workshops on both food and medical regulatory issues.

“Agencies in both governments also will make efforts to find opportunities for joint training on food-borne illnesses and the oversight of food traded internationally,” said the agency in a statement.

“FDA staff will work with industry in Mexico as well,” said Murray Lumpkin, FDA’s deputy commissioner for international programs. “FDA experts in Mexico city will work closely with local industries that ship food and medical products to the United States to improve their understanding of U.S. safety and quality expectations. Their activities will include providing technical advice and working with government agencies and the private sector to develop certifications programs.”

The agency currently operates 10 other international posts in China, India, Europe, and Latin America, in addition to its U.S. locations. 

The expansion comes as the U.S. food safety system continues to be under scrutiny in the wake of a highly publicized national foodborne illness outbreaks, including peppers, peanut butter, and even cookie dough. Under the current system, less than 1 percent of imported food is inspected by the FDA.