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Curing the China Syndrome

Talk all you want about health and wellness. Safety comes first. That's why we were interested to read that the Food and Drug Administration is planning to open offices in China, staffed by eight full-time regulators.

The officers will be attached to diplomatic posts in the country, specifically the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou. The announcement comes in the wake of significant recalls involving pet food, medication and toothpaste, among other products.

"Our efforts to fill permanent FDA positions in China are a significant step toward ensuring access to safe food, drugs and medical devices in the global market," said Murray Lumpkin, the FDA's deputy commissioner for international and special programs.

Boy, did he get that right. China has emerged as an important, critical resource for imports, including organic commodities. Yet its products are capable of killing unwitting consumers (both animal and human).

The timing is good. China is under tremendous pressure to clean up its act in advance of the 2008 Summer Olympics. If it wants the good will to continue after the flame is extinguished and the athletes return home, it's going to have to start opening up a bit more.