Speaking at a food safety conference in Shanghai, Food and Drug Administration Deputy Commissioner for Foods Mike Taylor said the agency needs more staff in China to understand and have confidence in that country’s food safety oversight efforts.

“Today, FDA has only four full-time China-based staff who focus on food safety issues, but we hope to increase that number to 12,” Taylor said at the China International Food Safety and Quality Conference and Expo on Nov. 5.

Taylor said the U.S. and China have worked more closely together since the 2007 the incident involving intentional melamine contamination of pet foods. At that time, FDA’s parent Department of Health and Human Services established a regulatory cooperation agreement on food and feed with China’s General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, Taylor said.

The main areas of focus of the original agreement — low-acid canned foods, pet food and pet treats, and farm raised seafood — remain “works in progress” according to the FDA’s website.

“The legal, regulatory and technical gaps between our systems are challenging, but we think they can be overcome with sustained effort,” Taylor said at the conference. “One thing we have learned is that we need more FDA presence in China to expedite the building of mutual understanding and confidence, which are the foundation for mutual reliance.”