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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 2, 1997


Today President Clinton will announce an initiative to upgrade domestic food safety standards and to ensure that fruits and vegetables coming from overseas are as safe as those produced in the United States. The President will ask Congress to enact legislation that will require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt imports of fruits, vegetables and other food products produced in countries that do not meet U.S. food safety requirements. The President will direct the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to work cooperatively with the agricultural community to develop guidance on good agricultural and manufacturing practices for fruits and vegetables.

Enhanced FDA Oversight for Imported Foods. The President will send legislation to Congress that will require the FDA to halt imports of fruits, vegetables and other food products from any foreign country with food safety systems and standards that are not on par with those of the United States. The legislation also will require the FDA to halt imports from countries or facilities that do not allow FDA inspections to occur. This legislation -- comparable to existing law that requires the USDA to halt the importation of meat and poultry from such countries -- will enable the FDA to prevent the importation of potentially unsafe foreign produce. The President will also commit to providing the necessary funds in his Fiscal Year 1999 budget to enable the FDA to dramatically expand its international food inspection force. With this greatly increased ability to inspect food safety conditions abroad and at points of entry, the FDA will be able to make effective use of its new authority.

Development of Guidance on Good Agricultural and Manufacturing Practices. The President will direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture and in cooperation with the agricultural community, to develop guidance on good agricultural and manufacturing practices within one year. This guidance will take into account differences in both crops and regions and will address potential food safety problems throughout the food production and distribution system such as sanitation, worker health, and water quality. The guidance -- the first-ever specific safety standards for fruits and vegetables -- will improve the agricultural and manufacturing practices of all those seeking to sell produce in the U.S. market. To ensure that this guidance has the widest possible effect, the President will also direct the FDA and USDA to develop coordinated outreach and educational activities.

Improvement of Monitoring and Inspection Activities Abroad. In addition to committing substantial resources to expand the FDA's international food inspection force, the President will direct the Secretaries of Health and Human Services and Agriculture to report within 90 days on how to improve the monitoring of agricultural and manufacturing practices abroad, to assist foreign countries to improve these practices where necessary, and to prevent the importation of unsafe produce. The President will urge consideration of ways to target inspection and testing toward those areas where problems are most likely to occur.

Clinton Administration Accomplishments In Improving Food Safety

The President's announcement builds on a strong record of food safety initiatives, ensuring that Americans eat the safest possible food. The Administration has put into place improved safety standards for meat, poultry and seafood products, and has begun the process of developing enhanced standards for fruit and vegetable juices. The Administration also has expanded research, education and surveillance activities throughout the food safety system.