The acting head of the Food and Drug Administration inspected two international mail centers this week to examine U.S. efforts to seize foreign shipments of illicit vaping products, fentanyl and other drugs, the agency said Tuesday.
FDA chief Ned Sharpless dropped by facilities at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Jamaica, New York, and Secaucus, New Jersey, on Monday as federal authorities work to crack down on the large flow of illegal drugs and other substances that are smuggled into the U.S. each year.
It also comes as federal authorities combat two public health crises: one from vaping and the other due to opioids.
“It is truly remarkable to have witnessed the stunning volume of parcels that come into a single international mail facility on any given day,” Sharpless said in a statement Tuesday. “Many of these parcels lack any package labeling, contain products labeled as dietary supplements with hidden drug ingredients, or contain drug products or medical devices that are unapproved or counterfeit.”
He added: “I commend the hard-working men and women who play a pivotal role working around the country in support of our essential mission to protect the health of the American people.”
Regulatory officials say international mail facilities are prime targets for drug traffickers because parcel and vehicle inspections at the centers are limited due to staffing shortages.
U.S. officials claim China is the main source of illicit fentanyl that is trafficked into the U.S. Stopping shipment of the drug from China to the U.S. has been a focal point of conversation for President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping as the two world leaders attempt to hash out a trade deal.
Sharpless also said FDA authorities are working with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to identify potentially illicit vaping products.
Public health officials are working to identify the cause of a lung illness linked to vaping that resembles a rare form of pneumonia. Doctors say hundreds of the patients sick are suspected of vaping black-market cannabis products.