The U.S. Food and Drug Administration highlighted its work in Latin America in a consumer update this week. Ensuring food and drugs produced by Latin American companies meet the same health and safety standards as those in the United States falls to FDA’s Latin American Office, and it’s “no small task,” according to the agency. “If you think about the 44 countries and territories that typically contain a Ministry of Health and a Ministry of Agriculture, that’s 88 entities we have the opportunity to communicate with, sometimes on a daily basis,” said Michael Rogers, LAO director. “Of all the products regulated by FDA, which include food, drugs, medical devices and others, about 30 percent come from the Latin American region,” according to FDA. “The percentage is even greater for fresh produce and seafood. Of the top 10 countries exporting fresh produce to the U.S., eight—Mexico, Guatemala, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Costa Rica, Honduras and Ecuador—are in Latin America.” The task is challenging, and made even more complex, according to the agency, because Latin America is economically and culturally diverse and has a “range of regulatory and public health systems.” More from FDA:

The LAO opened posts in San Jose, Costa Rica, and Santiago, Chile in 2009. A post in Mexico City opened in 2010. The post that focuses largely on Brazil operates from FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. LAO’s responsibilities and strategic objectives include:

•    developing contacts to ensure that FDA’s counterparts in Latin America and stakeholders from industry, commerce, agriculture and academia are informed about FDA regulations and processes affecting them; •    establishing effective communication—in languages that include Spanish, Portuguese and English—with FDA’s counterparts in each country; •    working with headquarters in developing procedures for U.S. inspection of Latin American facilities involved in the production of FDA-regulated products, as well as working with local governments to join and follow up on FDA’s inspections when significant problems are observed; •    assisting FDA efforts in emergencies, such as a serious and widespread problem with an FDA-regulated product; and •    coordinating with headquarters in fostering mutually beneficial partnerships related to laboratory testing for food safety.

See FDA’s full consumer update: FDA Forges Partnerships in Latin America. Photo courtesy of FDA’s flickr.