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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 6, 2000



In his radio address today, President Clinton will announce an aggressive new strategy to significantly reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses caused by Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods such as hot dogs and lunch meats. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,518 people each year become ill from Listeria -- and 20 percent of cases result in death. Food-borne listeriosis has particularly high fatality rates for newborns, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. The President today will direct the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to take a range of actions, including new regulations, to cut the risk of illness and death from Listeria. He will also push Congress to fully fund his food safety initiative and criticize Congress for voting just this week to undermine that initiative.

TAKING ACTION TO REDUCE ILLNESSES FROM READY-TO-EAT FOODS. Today President Clinton will announce an aggressive new interagency effort to combat food-borne illness caused by Listeria. In particular, the President will direct USDA to complete proposed regulations that include any appropriate microbiological testing and other measures by industry to: 1) prevent cross-contamination in the processing environment; 2) ensure that the processing of ready-to-eat products meets appropriate standards; and 3) ensure that such products are safe throughout their shelf life. In addition, the President will direct HHS to develop an action plan identifying further steps to reduce Listeria contamination, including identification of control measures for at-risk foods and the publication of guidance to processors, retailers, and food service facilities. Finally, both USDA and HHS will consider the need for enhanced labeling to provide additional consumer safeguards. The Administration's goal is to cut in half, by the year 2010, the number of illnesses caused by Listeria (from 0.5 to 0.25 cases per 100,000). Today's actions should enable the Administration to reach this goal five years early.

CALLING ON CONGRESS TO SUPPORT HIS FOOD SAFETY INITIATIVES. Just this week, Congressional committees voted to block funding for the President's food safety initiative. The President today will urge Congress to provide the full $68 million increase he has requested for the initiative, which would, among other things, protect millions of Americans from the dangers of salmonella poisoning in eggs and enable FDA to expand the number of inspections of imported and certain domestic foods. The President also will call on Congress to pass two key pieces of food safety legislation. One bill, sponsored by Senators Mikulski, Kennedy, and Durbin and Rep. Eshoo, ensures that imports of fruits, vegetables, and other food products meet U.S. food safety requirements. The second bill, sponsored by Sen. Harkin, gives USDA authority to issue mandatory recalls and impose civil penalties for unsafe meat and poultry.

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 food-borne 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.


To ensure that our food supply remains among the safest in the world, the Clinton-Gore Administration has made reducing food-borne illness a national priority. 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:

December Announced Egg Safety Action Plan that will cut in half by 2005 the number of 1999 Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) illnesses attributed to eggs, and will set a goal of eliminating such illnesses altogether by 2010.

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 HHS and the Treasury Department to

          explore additional actions 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 good
          agricultural and management practices.

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

          developing a strategic plan for federal food safety activities
          and ensuring that all relevant agencies 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 on packaged fresh fruit and
          vegetable juices that have not been processed to prevent,
          reduce, or eliminate illness-causing microbes.

May 1998 Formed national computer network of public health laboratories,

         called PulseNet," to help rapidly identify and stop outbreaks
         of food-borne 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 food-borne pathogens.

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 to control

          disease-causing microorganisms.  Implemented seafood HACCP 
          regulations for all seafood processors.

Oct. 1997 Ordered 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 food-borne 
          illness by educating Americans about safe food handling 
          practices.  The Partnership has launched a multi-year, 
          broad-based public education campaign 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

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

          Announced new early warning system, the Food-borne Outbreak
          Response Coordinating Group (FORC-G), a partnership of federal
          and state agencies, to develop a comprehensive, coordinated
          national food-borne 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 signed Safe Drinking Water Act of 1996, which

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

          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 Food-borne 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 food-borne illness and monitor the effectiveness
          of food safety programs in reducing food-borne 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 food-borne, 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.