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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release May 12, 1997
                          IMPROVE FOOD SAFETY
      Calls For Stricter Precautions For Fruit & Vegetable Juices, 
                          Improved Inspections

Vice President Gore today (5/12) announced a five-point plan to significantly increase the safety of the nation's food supply. The plan sets forth steps the Administration will take this year to strengthen food safety and details how we will use $43.2 million in new funds the President has requested in his fiscal year 1998 budget.

"When children reach for a piece of food, parents deserve to have peace of mind," said the Vice President who heads the National Performance Review to make government work better and cost less. "This Administration is using the most modern science and a common-sense approach to increase the safety of our nation's food supply and protect the public health."

The plan, "Food Safety From Farm to Table," is outlined in a report presented to the Vice President today by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala, Department of Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner. The President requested the report in January. It calls for improved inspections, public education and greater use of the latest science to dramatically reduce foodborne illness. It calls for stricter safety precautions for fruit and vegetable juices, improved seafood inspections, and increased investment in research, risk assessment and surveillance.

In his January 25 radio address, the President announced he was requesting $43.2 million for food safety in his FY 1998 budget and requested a report detailing recommendations on ways to further improve food safety. The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, and the Environmental Protection Agency, working with state and local officials, the food industry, scientists, consumer, and producer groups, developed the report.

Today's actions build on previous Administration steps to modernize the nation's food safety programs, first proposed by the Vice President's National Performance Review. Specifically, the National Performance Review encouraged the widespread adoption of preventive controls to food safety, and the implementation of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems.

A key element of the Administration's food safety efforts has been the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach that requires the food industry to use the most modern science to identify sources of potential contamination in food production and transportation and then put in place preventive measures. Already required by the Food and Drug Administration for seafood and by USDA for meat and poultry, FDA will propose preventive measures, including HACCP, for the manufacture of fruit and vegetable juice products, and USDA will propose HACCP and other appropriate regulatory and non-regulatory options for egg products.

In addition to moving toward a science-based, preventive approach to food safety, the Administration continues to improve the effectiveness of food safety inspections. Specifically, the additional funds requested for FY 1998 will allow the FDA to add inspectors to implement seafood HACCP and to expand its program to develop additional mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) with United States trading partners ensuring that imported foods are produced and manufactured under systems that offer comparable safety measures to those used in the United States. With the new funds, FDA will also be able to provide technical assistance to foreign countries on safe growing and handling practices.

The Administration already is taking steps to put in place the new National Early Warning System President Clinton announced in January to track and combat outbreaks of foodborne illness. This fiscal year, two new FoodNet sentinel sites were added in New York and Maryland. With funds requested for the upcoming fiscal year, an eighth site will open. This surveillance system is supported by the CDC, FDA and USDA, working with state authorities. New funds included in the FY 1998 budget will also allow these sites to update technology and build a "fingerprinting" database of bacterial DNA. This will enable food safety experts to clear any geographic hurdle to their work by having a national resource that can help them quickly identify contaminated foods that are the sources of foodborne illness.

Under the Administration's plan, work will start immediately on a national public education campaign on safe food handling. Today, an unprecedented public-private partnership was established among government agencies and industry and consumer groups to develop a food safety education campaign aimed at consumers.

Research to develop quick, reliable scientific methods for detecting contamination -- like the Hepatitis A virus and cyclospora -- will ensure that public health agencies have the necessary tools to prevent and control outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. The latest research will also explore how pathogens become resistant to traditional food preservation techniques such as heat and refrigeration, and will support new pathogen control methods.

Also under the new initiative, EPA, FDA and the CDC will collaborate with state and local health departments on research to help health officials better predict and control outbreaks of waterborne microbial contaminants, such as crypto sporidium. ##