Ensuring safe foods and medical products through stronger regulatory systems abroad

A new report calls on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to export its regulatory knowhow to improve the safety of imports arriving in the U.S.

Almost 40 percent of the fruits and nuts and 85 percent of the seafood that Americans purchase come from aboard. More than 80 percent of active pharmaceutical ingredients are imported, and 40 percent of medicines are imported as finished products.

The report from a committee of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies says many regulatory agencies abroad lack the legal framework, funding, training, and oversight that have helped to transform the FDA into one of the world’s top-notch regulatory agencies.

Jim Riviere, a professor of pharmacology at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, and chair of the committee said, "Globalization is not going to reverse. … No matter how much inspection we do, we are always going to find flawed products. We’re not saying we need to cut back on inspections, but all resources can’t be spent on inspection."

Instead, the IOM says the onus is on the FDA to help the exporting countries improve their own regulatory systems and supply chains, so that everyone can be more confident that what they’re producing is safe.