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Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release May 22, 1998
                     TO FIGHT FOOD-BORNE ILLNESS
              New Food Safety System Five Times Faster 
                At Locating Serious and Wide-Spread 
                    Food Contamination Problems

Washington, D.C. -- Addressing a problem that affects 33 million Americans each year, Vice President Gore announced today a new national computer network that will be five times faster at identifying and combating food-borne illness.

PulseNet -- a national computer network that identifies outbreaks of food-borne illness -- will enable public health laboratories across the country to use the Internet to provide alerts when outbreaks of food-borne disease occur.

President Clinton and I are committed to finding ways to ensure that the food Americans put on their tables is safe, said the Vice President, who was joined at a White House ceremony by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. With this efficient new computer network, we can more effectively trace widespread foodborne disease outbreaks and warn millions of Americans to stay away from contaminated food products.

In as little as 48 hours, PulseNet can identify rogue E.coli strains in foods by identifying the distinctive DNA fingerprints of pathogens found in both food sources and the patients suffering from gastric illness. In 1993, it took three weeks to track an rogue E.coli contamination in hamburger meat produced by single source.

PulseNet will link food safety investigators at the Centers for Disease Control, the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture Department, four key area laboratories and state health departments to link directly with the PulseNet database.

As of today, epidemiologists in the following states will be on PulseNet -- Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, Washington, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. The CDC plans to have all states on the network by 1999.

This important Administration initiative will reduce the number of Americans who suffer from episodes of food-borne illness and prevent over 9,000 deaths a year. This initiative is part of the Vice President's effort to reinvent government through partnerships at state and federal agencies and make smart use of the latest technology.

The Vice President also announced the formation of FORCG (pronounced Force G), a partnership of federal and state agencies to better respond to food-borne illness outbreaks.