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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 2, 1997

October 2, 1997



SUBJECT: Initiative to Ensure the Safety of Imported and Domestic Fruits and Vegetables

American consumers today enjoy the safest food supply in the world, and I am proud of my Administration's record in this area. We have taken significant steps to ensure that we maintain the safest food possible. We have put in place improved safety standards for meat, poultry, and seafood products, and we have begun the process of developing enhanced safety standards for fruit and vegetable juices. We have also expanded research, education, and surveillance activities through coordinated efforts of all agencies involved in food safety issues. Together, these measures will greatly improve the safety of the Nation's food supply.

We need to build on these efforts, and today I ask you to do so by focusing on the safety of fruits and vegetables. Although the produce Americans eat is very safe, we can and must do even better, especially at a time when Americans are eating more fruits and vegetables from all over the world. Last year, 38 percent of the fruit and 12 percent of the vegetables consumed by Americans came from overseas. We must ensure that fruits and vegetables coming from abroad are as safe as those produced in the United States, especially as we upgrade our own domestic standards.

To help accomplish this task, I plan to send to the Congress proposed legislation that will require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt imports of fruits, vegetables, or other food from any foreign country whose food safety systems and standards are not on par with those of the United States. This legislation, which will be similar to existing law requiring 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. My Fiscal Year 1999 budget will provide the necessary funds to enable the FDA to expand dramatically 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 determine when to halt the importation of fruits and vegetables from foreign countries.

Today, I hereby direct two administrative actions that will better ensure the safety of fruits and vegetables coming from abroad, while continuing to improve the safety of domestic produce.

First, I direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture and in close cooperation with the agricultural community, to issue within 1 year from the date of this memorandum, guidance on good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices for fruits and vegetables. This guidance should address ways to prevent potential sources of contamination, should take into account differences in both crops and regions, and should address food safety issues throughout the food production and distribution system. By providing the first-ever specific safety standards for fruits and vegetables, the guidance 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, I also direct the development of coordinated outreach and educational activities.

Second, I direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Secretary of Agriculture, to report back to me within 90 days from the date of this memorandum with a status report and complete schedule for the good agricultural and manufacturing practices, and a plan on how to improve the monitoring of agricultural and manufacturing practices abroad, to assist foreign countries to improve those practices where necessary, and to prevent the importation of unsafe produce, including by detecting unsafe food at the dock or border. I especially urge you to consider the best ways to target inspection and testing toward those areas where problems are most likely to occur.

In addition to taking these actions, you should accelerate whatever food safety research is necessary to support them. You should also call upon the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and other agencies as necessary to provide you with assistance in achieving this goal. These steps, taken together and in coordination with the proposed legislation I will send to the Congress, will improve the safety of fruits and vegetables for all Americans.


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