THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON ANNOUNCES AGGRESSIVE FOOD SAFETY STRATEGY TO COMBAT
LISTERIA IN HOT DOGS AND OTHER READY-TO-EAT FOODS
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.
CLINTON-GORE ADMINISTRATION: A RECORD OF IMPROVING FOOD SAFETY
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 initiatives.
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 safety. 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 actions. 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.