View Header


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release July 4, 1998
                       SAFETY INITIATIVE AND PASSAGE
                               July 4, 1998

In his weekly radio address, the President will call for full funding of the food safety initiative in his FY99 budget and for passage of two vital pieces of legislation to improve the safety of this nation's food supply into the 21st Century.

Food Safety Initiative. The President's FY99 budget includes a request for $101 million to improve the safety of the nation's food supply. These resources will support a variety of measures including: hiring additional FDA inspectors to examine the safety of our nation's fruits and vegetables, both domestic and imported; developing new ways for federal inspectors to detect food-borne illnesses in meat and poultry and determine the source of contamination; improving educational outreach on proper food handling; and expanding our early warning system to help detect and respond to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

Congress has so far failed to provide the resources this important initiative requires. The House-passed Agriculture Appropriations bill provided only $16.8 million of the Administration's requested increase for USDA and FDA, while the Senate Committee-passed bill provided only $2.6 million. The President will call on Congress to meet his budget request for these measures, which are critical to the safety of the food consumed by America's families.

Enhanced FDA Oversight for Imported Foods. The President will call on Congress to pass food safety legislation, introduced by Senators Milkulski and Kennedy and Reps. Eshoo and Pallone, that gives the FDA greater authority over imported foods. This legislation will ensure that the FDA halts imports of fruits, vegetables, and other food products that do not meet U.S. food safety requirements or that do not provide the same level of protection as is required for U.S. products. The legislation also enables the FDA to halt imports from a country or facility that refuses to allow FDA inspections. This legislation gives FDA authority that is comparable to USDA's existing authority to prevent the importation of unsafe meat and poultry.

Mandatory Recall and Civil Penalties for Unsafe Meat and Poultry. The President also will call on Congress to pass the Food Safety Enforcement Enhancement Act, sponsored by Senators Harkin, Daschle, Johnson, and Leahy, which gives USDA the ability to assess civil fines and to order mandatory recalls of unsafe meat and poultry products. Currently, the USDA can respond to food safety violations only by bringing criminal actions or withdrawing inspections; all recalls are done on a voluntary basis and no civil penalties are available. This new legislation will give USDA additional enforcement tools to prevent consumers from ingesting and becoming ill from dangerous meat and poultry.