The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking alternative steps to determine if Chinese-made products meet federal safety standards due to complications related to the coronavirus outbreak, department officials said Monday.
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The virus, dubbed COVID-19, originated in China and has spread rapidly to other countries in recent weeks. China disclosed an additional 71 deaths related to coronavirus on its mainland on Monday, bringing the death toll to more than 2,600 people in the country alone.
Travel restrictions imposed by the U.S. government have hindered the FDA’s ability to conduct routine inspections of goods imported from China. In lieu of on-site inspections, FDA officials are requesting relevant records from firms to monitor imports and help to prioritize inspection efforts once the travel advisory is lifted.
“While we are not able to conduct inspections in China right now, this is not hindering our efforts to monitor medical products and food safety,” the FDA said in a statement. “We have additional tools we are utilizing to monitor the safety of products from China, and in the meantime, we continue monitoring the global drug supply chain by prioritizing risk-based inspections in other parts of the world.”
To date, U.S. officials have disclosed 53 coronavirus cases. The FDA said it has “no evidence” to suggest that products imported from China have transmitted coronavirus.
More than 60 percent of FDA-regulated products manufactured in China are medical devices, while an additional 20 percent of products are forms of houseware, such as food packaging, the FDA said.
Aside from the records requests, the FDA said it is collaborating with U.S. Customs and Border Protection to identify products that pose a risk for violating safety standards through unintentional or deliberate means.
“Fortunately, currently, we are not seeing the impacts of this outbreak resulting in an increased public health risk for American consumers from imported products,” the FDA added.
Chinese businesses have experienced major interruptions in their operations due to the coronavirus outbreak. In addition, several U.S. firms active in the Chinese market, including Apple, Nike and Starbucks, have closed stores in the region to mitigate health risks.
The outbreak has stoked fears of a medication shortage due to an interruption to shipments of drug components made in China, Axios reported earlier this week.
Mounting fears of a global pandemic weighed on U.S. stock indices on Monday, shaving more than 1,000 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average.