THE WHITE HOUSE AT WORK
Thursday, July 2, 1998
THE CLINTON/GORE ADMINISTRATION:
INCREASING FOOD SAFETY FOR AMERICA'S FAMILIES
I challenge Congress to fully fund our Food Safety Initiative and give Americans peace of mind when they reach for a piece of food. I call on Congress to pass legislation that will allow the federal government to recall contaminated meat and poultry. The present system of recalls was created in an age when meat traveled around the corner. Today, it travels around the country. We need new authority to seize meat that may be contaminated, to protect America's families.
- Vice President Al Gore
July 2, 1998
Today, Vice President Al Gore is joined by Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and calls on Congress to fully fund the Administration's Food Safety Initiative and pass legislation giving the USDA authority to order the recall of contaminated meat and poultry and to impose civil penalties for violations of food safety standards.
Addressing The Danger Of Food-Borne Illness. Every year, an estimated 6.5 to 33 million people become sick from food-borne illnesses. The medical costs and productivity losses associated with these illnesses range from $6-$34 billion a year. After making revolutionary changes in our meat, poultry, and seafood food safety systems, the Clinton Administration dramatically expanded its food safety efforts last year by launching the Food Safety Initiative, a comprehensive strategy to improve food safety from the farm to the table.
A Call For Congressional Action. The President has requested additional funding in fiscal year 1999 for resources to continue the fight for improved food safety. The House approved less than one-fifth of the Administration's request, and the Senate Appropriations Committee provides even less funding for this important initiative to protect American families. Today, the Vice President challenges Congress to fully fund the Food Safety Initiative, which would:
- Further expand our early warning system and strengthen state surveillance activities of food-borne illness;
- Hire FDA inspectors to improve the safety of our nation's fruit and vegetables, both domestic and imported;
- Develop new ways for federal inspectors to detect food-borne illnesses in meat and poultry and determine the sources of contamination;
- Improve education outreach on proper food handling.
Encouraging States To Adopt the FDA's Model Food Code. The Vice President encourages state and local governments, and the retail food industry to adopt and follow the food safety recommendations in the FDA's Food Code, which includes recommended, but voluntary, standards and practices to keep food safe in restaurants, grocery stores, nursing homes, day care centers, and other local food service operations. By adopting this Code, our citizens would be ensured of uniformly effective safety protection throughout the nation.
Challenging Congress To Pass The Food Safety Enforcement Act. The Vice President challenges Congress to pass legislation sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) that will give the Department of Agriculture the authority to asses civil fines and order mandatory recalls of unsafe meat and poultry products. Currently, the USDA can only respond to food safety violations by bringing criminal actions or withdrawing inspections, recalls are voluntary and civil penalties are unavailable.