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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release December 11, 1999

Today the President will announce an aggressive plan to improve the safety of the eggs we eat and to clamp down on importers of unsafe foods. The Egg Safety Action Plan aims to cut in half by 2005 the number of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) illnesses attributed to eggs, and will set a goal of eliminating such illnesses altogether by 2010. Nearly 3.3 million eggs in the U.S. are infected with the SE bacteria annually, and in 1997 alone, there were an estimated 300,000 cases of SE infections. The estimated costs of these illnesses are as high as $870 million each year. The President today will also announce new steps to target unscrupulous importers who attempt to move unsafe food into U.S. markets. These new steps were developed as a result of the President's directive to the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Treasury to protect consumers from unsafe imported foods.

TAKING ACTION TO REDUCE EGG-RELATED ILLNESSES. Today the President will announce plan that aims to cut by 50 percent the number of egg-associated SE illnesses by the year 2005. The Egg Safety Action Plan addresses systems and practices at each stage of the farm-to-table continuum to reduce eggs as a source of SE infection. The plan permits egg producers, packers, and processors to choose between two strategies, each providing consumers with equivalent levels of safety:

Strategy I focuses on producers at the farm level, requiring rigorous on-farm agricultural and sanitation practices, extensive testing for SE, and egg diversion systems, so that infected eggs are rerouted or "diverted" away from consumers.

Strategy II focuses on the processing and packing stages, requiring that SE-infected eggs receive lethal treatments, also known as a "kill step," so that the SE bacteria are eliminated in infected eggs. Strategy II recognizes the implementation of new technologies such as "in shell pasteurization" to kill the SE bacteria.

The Plan also specifies safe handling practices at the distribution and retail stages to help ensure that consumers receive safe eggs and egg products. In addition, the plan clearly describes the surveillance, research, and education activities that must also be conducted to achieve the target of elimination of egg-associated SE illnesses.

CLAMPING DOWN ON IMPORTERS OF UNSAFE FOODS. In July, the President issued a directive to the Departments of Health and Human Services and Treasury to develop a plan to prevent the import of unsafe food. Today the President will announce that plan, which sets forth timeframes to:

Prevent distribution of unsafe food by requiring that import shipments be stored in secure facilities at the importers' expense until released by FDA and Customs;

Identify and destroy foods that have been refused entry due to a serious public health and/or safety violation. It is anticipated that the estimated 1,500 annual destructions will prevent re-entry at another port in the U.S. or distribution in another country;

Label refused food shipments and accompanying paperwork to indicate that the product was denied entry into the U.S. This will help eliminate the practice of "port shopping," where importers whose cargo is denied entry at one port try to introduce it an another without bringing the food into compliance with U.S. laws and regulations;

Establish standards for importers, contractors, and private laboratories that collect and analyze samples of imported food for the purpose of gaining entry into the U.S;

Increase the amount of bond posted for imported foods to the full market value of the product to deter illegal entry into the U.S.; and

Efficiently use civil monetary penalties against importers who attempt to enter food into the U.S. by means of a material false statement, act, or admission.

BUILDING ON A STRONG RECORD OF ENSURING FOOD SAFETY. The Clinton Administration has made food safety a high priority by seeking substantial funding for such initiatives as a nationwide early-warning system for foodborne illness, increased inspections, and the expansion of food-safety research, risk assessment and education. The Administration has put into place improved science-based standards for meat, poultry, and seafood products. The President has also created a Food Safety Council, which is now developing a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of the nation's food supply into the 21st century.


The Clinton/Gore Administration has made reducing foodborne illness a national priority, to ensure that our food supply remains among the safest in the world. The Administration has put in place improved safety standards for meat, poultry, and seafood products, and developed enhanced standards for fruit and vegetable juices. Research, education, and surveillance efforts have also been greatly expanded. Significant milestones in the Administration's efforts:

July 1999 Announced efforts to improve egg safety by requiring that

          shell eggs be stored at 45 degrees Farenheit or below during
          transport, in warehouses, and at retail stores - and by
          requiring safe handling statements on egg cartons.

July 1999 Directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and

          the Treasury Department to explore additional actions they
          could take to protect consumers from unsafe imported foods.

Jan. 1999 Implemented new science-based inspection system called Hazard

          Analysis-Critical Control Points (HACCP) in almost 3,000 small
          meat and poultry plants.

Oct. 1998 Published guidance for growers, packers, and shippers of fresh

          fruits and vegetables to provide information on agricultural
          and management practices to enhance the safety of fresh 

Aug. 1998 Created the President's Food Safety Council, which is charged

          with developing a comprehensive strategic plan for Federal
          food safety activities and ensuring that all Federal agencies
          involved in food safety work together to develop coordinated
          food safety budgets each year.

July 1998 Announced Joint Institute for Food Safety Research, which will

          develop a strategic plan for conducting and coordinating all
          federal food safety research activities, including with the
          private sector and academia.

          Announced new warning labels that would be required on
          packaged fresh fruit and vegetable juices that have not been
          processed to prevent, reduce, or eliminate illness-causing

May 1998 Formed national computer network of public health

          laboratories, called "PulseNet," to help rapidly identify and
          stop outbreaks of foodborne illness.  The new system enables
          epidemiologists to respond up to five times faster than before
          in identifying serious and widespread food contamination
          problems by performing DNA "fingerprinting" on foodborne

Feb. 1998 Announced proposed food safety budget, which requests

          approximately $101 million increase for food safety

Jan. 1998 Implemented new, science-based HACCP system for 300 largest

meat and poultry plants.

Dec. 1997 Approved irradiation of meat products for controlling

disease-causing microorganisms.

Oct. 1997 Directed additional actions to improve the safety of domestic

and imported fruit and vegetables.

          Established Partnership for Food Safety Education, an
          ambitious federal-private partnership to reduce foodborne
          illness by educating Americans about safe food handling
          practices.  The Partnership has launched a multi-year,
          broad-based public education campaign "Fight BAC!'to teach
          Americans about safe food-handling practices.

May 1997 Announced 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.

Jan. 1997 Unveiled National Food Safety Initiative, a five-point plan to

          working with consumers, producers, industry, states,
          universities, and the public to strengthen and improve food

          Announced new early warning system, the Foodborne Outbreak
          Response Coordinating Group (FORC-G), a partnership of federal
          and state agencies, to develop a comprehensive, coordinated
          national foodborne illness outbreak response system to
          increase coordination and communication among federal, state,
          and local agencies; guide efficient use of resources and
          expertise during an outbreak; and prepare for new and emerging
          threats to the U.S.  food supply.

Aug. 1996 President Clinton signed Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996,

          which require drinking water systems to protect against
          dangerous contaminants such as Cryptosporidium and gives
          people the right to know about contaminants in their tap

          President Clinton signed 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 Announced new HACCP 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.

Jan. 1996 The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet),

          a collaborative effort among HHS and USDA, along with state
          health departments and local investigators around the country,
          begins collecting data to better track the incidence of
          foodborne illness and monitor the effectiveness of food safety
          programs in reducing foodborne illness.

Dec. 1995 Issued new rules to ensure seafood safety, using 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

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

          Reorganized USDA to establish Office of the Under Secretary
          for Food Safety.  This increases the visibility of food safety
          within USDA and separates food safety functions from marketing
          functions carried out by other parts of USDA.  Reorganization
          also creates a new Office of Public Health and Science within
          FSIS to improve the scientific base needed to make sound
          regulatory decisions, based on public health.

1993      Vice-President Gore's National Performance Review issued a
          report recommending that government and industry move toward
          a system of preventive controls for food safety.