WASHINGTON — President Bush yesterday established by executive order the Import Safety Working Group, a government panel that will recommend steps to guarantee the safety of food and other products imported into the United States, while strengthening U.S. policing of those imports. The panel will be chaired by Michael Leavitt, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the umbrella agency that oversees the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 11 other federal health agencies. Officials said the panel was not developed specifically in response to recent contamination scares sparked by Chinese imports, noting that the panel will examine import and policing processes for more than 150 countries. However, the move followed an announcement that U.S. and Chinese food safety officials will meet in Beijing on July 31 to discuss the safety of Chinese seafood exports, and presumably China’s recent decision to block several pork and chicken product exports from the U.S.
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