A Medical Device Daily

According to a Reuters report filed last week, China will spend more than $1.1 billion improving food and drug safety by 2010, and its regulators will be given stronger oversight powers.

The expanded spending and strengthened oversight were reported in the wake of international fears over Chinese products.

In a story datelined Beijing, Reuters writer Ben Blanchard noted that China has been struggling to convince the world its produce is safe following a series of scandals over tainted pet food, toys, tires, toothpaste, medicine and fish.

Results of a new poll show U.S. consumers "extremely wary" of products made in China, Blanchard wrote, and nearly two-thirds said they would support a boycott of Chinese goods.

State Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Yan Jiangying said the government had earmarked 8.8 billion yuan ($1.16 billion) for food and drug safety over the country's current Five Year Plan, which runs to 2010.

Part of this would be spent on a large, new laboratory, she said, adding this was the first time the spending figure had been made public. Yan did not provide a comparison for previous years.

"Once the Five Year Plan has been completed, the abilities and the base of the regulator will be substantially raised," Yan said. "There will be an enormous improvement in the system for guaranteeing food and drug safety for the public."

New rules would give the watchdog the power to seal factories and seize whatever materials they need when probing sub-standard goods, she added.

Yan said her department also would take the safety message nationwide, starting out in the enormous countryside, home to 60% of the 1.3 billion Chinese population.

"We will focus on rural food safety," she said. A deputy agriculture minister admitted recently that the backward state of Chinese farming was a major obstacle to raising food safety.

Amidst assurances by the Chinese government that it is taking a responsible attitude toward food and drug safety, the Reuters report said there has been little let-up in the barrage of bad news.

State media said last Wednesday, the beginning of the one-year countdown to the Beijing Olympics, that the government would launch a campaign to crack down on the use of highly potent and poisonous pesticides, which are banned but still in use.

Five pesticides were banned earlier this year, and the Agriculture Ministry was compiling a blacklist of companies still making them, the official China Daily said.

In rural China, there was a problem with farmers improperly using chemicals and spraying them on crops just before they were gathered and sold, the report said. "As part of the government's food safety strategy, it will educate farmers how to properly use pesticides," the newspaper added.

China uses twice as much pesticide annually as is actually needed, which has exacerbated the country's food safety problems, according to the China Daily report.

Viking adds Saudi distributor

Viking Systems (San Diego), a manufacturer of laparoscopic vision systems for use in minimally invasive surgical (MIS) procedures, said it has expanded its international distribution network by partnering with medical device distributor Saudi Services & HealthCare (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia).

The company's 3Di Vision System is used by surgeons for complex minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, with an initial focus on applications in urology, gynecology, bariatric and general surgery.

Viking said Saudi Services & HealthCare is a leader in providing niche surgical markets with advanced technologies. The company intends to use its expertise to help Saudi Arabian surgeons understand the impact 3-D vision will have on their surgical practices.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Region countries, with their well-equipped medical facilities both in the public and private sectors, always seek the latest and most advanced medical devices and systems," said General Manager Saad Abou Sakher. "Viking's 3Di Vision System with ergonomic and integrative information features is unique in its application for MIS procedures. We are looking forward to introducing Viking Systems by setting a prime location in Riyadh to be a reference for [other] regional medical facilities."

Stephen Heniges, senior VP for global marketing and clinical development at Viking, said, "Our relationship with Saudi Services & HealthCare is ideal, as they are known for providing premier solutions to the healthcare industry throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Region. Surgeons from these countries have expressed a strong interest in obtaining the benefits of 3-D visualization for complex MIS procedures offered by our system."

Viking also manufactures 2-D 2Di Digital Vision Systems for targeted configurations and channels, as well as 2-D cameras and components sold through strategic partners and OEM programs.

Blue Sky for STD Med

STD Med (Stoughton, Massachusetts) said it has entered the South American medical device distribution market with its newest and fifth start-up company, Blue Sky Medical (Asuncion, Paraguay).

Blue Sky began distributing medical devices for STD Med in South and Central America in July.

"Blue Sky Medical is a chance for STD Med to fully understand the distribution model first-hand and to provide a patient base in South and Central America with access to U.S.-manufactured medical devices at an affordable price, said Steven Tallarida, president of STD Med and Blue Sky Medical.

Andrea Patisteas, VP of sales and marketing at STD Med and director at Blue Sky Medical, said, "We are pleased to expand upon our development and manufacturing expertise by adding a distribution arm."

STD Med said it is leveraging its OEM manufacturing capabilities and know-how to create a catalog of affordable, high-quality medical devices for distribution in South America and Central America.

"This new market for STD Med allows the company to compete in the direct-to-hospital sales arena, which is typically off-limits to OEM manufacturers in the U.S. This new endeavor is also expected to open doors for STD to compete in other new evolving global markets."