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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release March 4, 1998

March 4, 1998

Today, President Clinton will announce the introduction of legislation by Senators Mikulski and Kennedy to ensure the safety of all imported foods, including fruits and vegetables. This legislation will enhance the Food and Drug Administration's authority to prevent the import of fruits, vegetables, and other food products that do not meet U.S. food safety requirements. The President also will announce the release of a report that provides a blueprint on how the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) will 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 call on Congress to pass the food safety legislation being introduced today in the Senate, which would give the FDA greater authority over imported foods. This legislation would ensure that the FDA halts the import of fruits, vegetables, and other food products from any foreign country with food safety systems that do not provide the same level of protection required for U.S. products. The legislation also permits the FDA to consider refusal of inspection as a factor in halting imports from a country or facility and it gives FDA authority that is comparable to USDA's existing authority to prevent the importation of unsafe meat and poultry. The President already has committed to providing approximately $25 million in his Fiscal Year 1999 budget to enable the FDA to dramatically expand its international food inspection force in order to implement this legislation. Representatives Eshoo and Pallone previously have introduced this legislation in the House of Representatives.

Development of Guidance on Good Agricultural and Manufacturing Practices. The President will announce the release of a report on how the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture and in cooperation with the agricultural community, will develop guidance on good agricultural and manufacturing practices. This report outlines the progress already made -- and the measures that must still be taken -- to develop guidance for the growing, processing, shipping, and marketing of fruits and vegetables by October 1998. The guidance -- the first-ever specific safety standards for fruits and vegetables -- will address potential food safety problems throughout the production and distribution system and help ensure the sanitation and safety practices of all those seeking to sell produce in the U.S. market. The report also provides both short-and long-term plans for technical assistance, education, and outreach activities to support the appropriate application of the guidance.

Clinton Administration Accomplishments In Improving Food Safety

The President's announcement today 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.

*February, 1998. Administration announces its proposed food safety budget, which requests an approximate $101 million increase for food safety initiatives.

*May, 1997. Administration announces comprehensive new initiative to improve the safety of nation's food supply -- "Food Safety from Farm to Table" -- detailing a $43 million food safety program, including measures to improve surveillance, outbreak response, education, and research.

*January, 1997. President announces new Early-Warning System to gather critical scientific data to help stop foodborne disease outbreaks quickly and to improve prevention systems further.

*August, 1996. President signs Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996. The law requires drinking water systems to protect against dangerous contaminants like cryptosporidium, and gives people the right to know about contaminants in their tap water.

*August, 1996. President signs Food Quality Protection Act of 1996, which streamlines regulation of pesticides by FDA and EPA and puts important new public-health protections in place, especially for children.

*July, 1996. President Clinton announces new regulations that modernize the nation's meat and poultry inspection system for the first time in 90 years. New standards help prevent E.coli bacteria contamination in meat.

*December, 1995. Administration issues new rules to ensure seafood safety, utilizing HACCP regulatory programs to require food industries to design and implement preventive measures and increase the industries' responsibility for and control of their safety assurance actions.

*1994. CDC embarks on strategic program to detect, prevent, and control emerging infectious disease threats, some of which are food borne, making significant progress toward this goal in each successive year.

*1993. Vice-President's National Performance Review issues report recommending government and industry move toward a system of preventive controls.