The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced it has renewed an agreement with the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection, and Quarantine of China (AQSIQ) to “enhance cooperation between the U.S. and China on food and feed safety.” The initial agreement was struck in 2007, and the new accord extends the formal cooperation for another five years. According to FDA, the agreement includes:

– Enhancement of FDA’s ability to identify high-risk food products entering the United States from China

– Collaboration to facilitate inspections of facilities that process and produce food

– A focus on high-risk foods frequently exported from China to the United States, including canned and acidified foods, pet food and aquaculture

– The creation of processes for FDA to accept relevant, verified information from AQSIQ regarding registration and certification

After the last agreement was signed, FDA opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. “These offices have enhanced public health protection by strengthening FDA’s relationship with Chinese food safety authorities, performing inspections, conducting outreach to Chinese industry representatives regarding FDA requirements, and gathering information on trends and events that affect the safety of food exported from China to the United States,” said the agency in statement. FDA noted that the agency has made progress in several areas since the agreement was first signed five years ago:

– FDA has increased the number of facility inspections in China from no inspections in 2007 to 85 in 2011.

– In conjunction with AQSIQ, FDA experts have conducted workshops for members of the Chinese industry on FDA requirements for several categories of high-risk foods, including low-acid canned foods and farm-raised fish. As a result, Chinese regulators have implemented more stringent oversight of canneries shipping products to the United States.

– FDA and AQSIQ have also worked jointly to identify strategic ways to address problems associated with use of unsafe drugs in growing ponds at Chinese fish farms.

The agency also said it has greatly improved the relationship between food safety officials in both countries by regularly holding meetings and workshops. FDA is also helping Chinese food safety officials understand the impact the Food Safety Modernization Act will have on their food industry.