FDA chief: China tainted food labs do ‘right thing’

Sandra Lee, CNN • Updated 30th May 2017

( CNN ) — The Food and Drug Administration chief told a congressional hearing Wednesday he thinks any work done by China by using American universities as research centers had been done safely.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb made the comment at a Senate Banking Committee hearing examining the FDA’s enforcement actions in China. In January, a CNN investigation found the FDA’s China lab, which test for food and drug contamination, didn’t test for the chemicals found in poisonous Chinese infant formula, but examined more common ingredients such as milk powder. CNN’s investigation found the FDA did not test for ingredients that may have caused tainted milk powder to poison Chinese infants for at least four years.

Speaking on the Wednesday committee, Gottlieb said that while he wasn’t privy to China’s lab’s work, he had “a suspicion that their work and our work” had been done correctly.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, had singled out a former colleague who had worked at the FDA at China’s request. Cruz asked Gottlieb whether such an arrangement was “consistent with good public health policies.”

Gottlieb said he thought so and questioned Cruz’s focus on the lab.

Cruz, a vocal advocate for stronger efforts to stop China from launching more than 100 websites that illegally use US brand names for generic drugs and chemicals, suggested the risks were high and the FDA might be putting too much time and effort into a small issue.

“It’s a lot more important that you do the right thing for Americans,” Cruz said.

Cruz also questioned whether the trade imbalance with China amounted to a form of currency manipulation that benefits Chinese exports. Cruz referenced one complaint in particular from Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, that China was manipulating its currency. Toomey’s 2010 complaint against China led to sanctions against Chinese firms.

While Gottlieb said it was not clear what China’s exact currency policy was, he said there was some case of excess foreign exchange being held by China.

“I take the senator at his word that that excess will be called on to decline because he is on the Judiciary Committee,” Gottlieb said. “I’m not in a position to weigh in on every single allegation or word that comes out of a trade complaint. What I can say though is that we think it is important for me to hold China to account for their currency.”

Gottlieb said the US health care system needs cooperation with China.

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