Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, we are pleased to be here this
morning to discuss the extremely important issue of protecting our nation's food supply - an area that is a very high
priority for the Administration. I am Jane E. Henney, M.D., Commissioner of Food and
Drugs, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and I am Catherine E. Woteki, Ph.D., Under
Secretary for Food Safety, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). We applaud your
continued interest in ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply and look forward
to a full discussion of the issues you are raising today. In our testimony, we will
discuss the current status of our nation's food supply and the complex challenges we face, the history of
the food safety system, the substantial improvements we have made - particularly over the last
several years, and the next steps we are taking to continue to improve the safety of our
The Food Safety Challenge
While the American food supply is among the safest in the world, there are still too
many Americans stricken by illness every year caused by the food they consume, and some, mostly the very young, elderly,
and immune compromised, die every year as a result. The threats are numerous and varied - among them are Escherichia
coli (E.coli) O157:H7 in meat and apple juice; Salmonella in eggs, on
vegetables and on poultry; Vibrio in shellfish; Cyclospora and hepatitis A
virus on fruit; and Cryptosporidium in drinking water.
Today's challenges with respect to the food supply are complex. Much has changed in what we eat
and where we eat. Americans are eating a greater variety of foods, particularly poultry,
seafood and fresh fruit and vegetables. This is beneficial to our health, but presents
greater food safety challenges. More consumers demand these foods year round, making
safety issues surrounding transportation and refrigeration of increasing importance. And
as international trade expands, shifting regional commerce and products to a global
marketplace, our role in ensuring the safety of food expands as well. Americans are eating
more of their meals away from home. In fact, fifty cents of every food dollar is spent on
food prepared outside the home. This food is purchased not only from grocery stores and
restaurants, but also is consumed in institutional settings such as schools, hospitals,
nursing homes and day care centers. The result is that, as more people become involved in
preparing our meals, the chance for disease-producing errors increase.
Our vulnerable population will be growing, with, increased longevity, and increasing
numbers of immune-compromised individuals. Now nearly a quarter of the population is at
higher risk for foodborne illness.
These are all important factors, different foods, more foods prepared outside the home, and increased
vulnerable populations, but perhaps the most important elements in our changing world are the
recognition that foodborne diseases are a substantial contributor to ill health, that
these diseases are largely preventable, and that new and more virulent foodborne pathogens
continue to emerge. We are aware of more than five times the number of foodborne pathogens
in 1999 than we were in 1942. Many of these pathogens can be deadly, especially for people
at highest risk. As the system of food production and distribution changes, we must be
sure that the food safety system changes with it. There are many difficult challenges to
preventing foodborne illnesses. To meet them, we need a strong science base that addresses
all the complex issues involved in continuing to improve food safety and public health.
The Origins of the Federal Food Safety System
Until the first decade of the 20th Century, the regulation of food safety
was primarily the responsibility of State and local officials. The Meat Inspection Act and
the Pure Food and Drugs Act were both passed by Congress in 1906, establishing the federal
framework which has survived to this day. From their inception, these laws focused on
different areas of the food supply, and they took different approaches to ensure food
The Meat Inspection Act emerged in 1906, as a result of Congressional acknowledgment of
risk after publication of Upton Sinclair's book The Jungle, which focused public attention on filthy
conditions in Chicago's meatpacking plants. Infectious agents were the leading cause of human
morbidity and mortality in this country, and the links between some animal diseases and
human diseases, what we would now call zoonotic diseases, were known. This Act and its
successors, required continuous inspection, including ante-mortem and post mortem
inspection, to identify animal diseases, and prevent contamination during slaughter. It
also created an inspector force, which continues to this day as the Food Safety and
Inspection Service (FSIS) at USDA. Over the years FSIS was also given authority to oversee
poultry and egg products via the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Egg Products
Inspection Act. Starting in 1967, the Acts provided for a shared funding and
cooperative agreement system permitting States to operate meat and poultry
inspection programs. Twenty-five (25) States have their own programs as of today.
The genesis of the original Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 began with debates around
substitute foods, such as margerine for butter, and the use of questionable "ingredients" or additives in foods, such as
coal tar, borax, and colors. Thus, the Pure Food and Drugs Act, as originally enacted,
forbade adulteration and misbranding of foods in interstate commerce, placing the initial
responsibility on the food industry to produce safe and wholesome food, with the
government in effect policing the industry. In addition to authority under the Federal
Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (formerly the Pure Food and Drug Act), FDA has authority
under the Public Health Service Act, which gives FDA two valuable additional tools: very
broad authority to adopt regulations to control the spread of communicable disease when
food is involved, and the ability to both provide assistance to, and accept assistance
from, our state and local counterparts in the regulation of communicable disease.
II. The U.S. Food Safety Team
Despite split jurisdictions and differing statutory responsibilities across several
Federal agencies, the Administration has adopted a farm-to-table approach that looks at
food safety as an integrated and interdependent system.
Under the current structure, two Federal agencies have primary statutory responsibility
for assuring the safety of our food supply - FDA of DHHS and FSIS of USDA. FSIS has regulatory and inspection
responsibility for meat, poultry, and egg products, and FDA has regulatory responsibility
over the remainder of the food supply.
FDA has jurisdiction over 78 percent of domestic and imported foods that are marketed
in interstate commerce. FDA seeks to ensure that these products are safe, sanitary,
nutritious, wholesome, and adequately labeled. FDA has jurisdiction where food is
produced, processed, packaged, stored, or sold. FDA's jurisdiction includes much
more than food processing plants; it also includes approval and surveillance for new
animal drugs, medicated feed, and all food additives (including coloring agents,
preservatives, food packaging, sanitizers and boiler water additives) that can become part
of food. FDA shares with FSIS responsibilities for egg safety. FDA has authority for shell
eggs and FSIS has authority for egg products.
FSIS is charged by statute to prevent the shipment of adulterated meat products to
consumers, and to oversee appropriate labeling and provision of other consumer
information. FSIS also has authority to oversee poultry and egg products, via the Poultry
Products Inspection Act and the Egg Products Inspection Act. The acts also require any
country wishing to ship meat, poultry or egg products to the U.S. to maintain an
inspection program that is equivalent to the U.S. inspection. FSIS inspects each meat and
poultry food animal, both before and after slaughter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in DHHS, plays a critical and
unique role as a disease monitoring, investigative, and advisory agency that is separate
from - but works
closely with - both
food regulatory agencies. CDC leads Federal efforts to gather data on foodborne illness
and investigate outbreaks, and monitors the effectiveness of prevention and control
efforts. Through its on-going public health efforts, CDC also plays a pivotal role
building State and local health department epidemiology and laboratory capacity to support
foodborne disease surveillance and outbreak response.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), another important partner, protects our
water supply by setting drinking water standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act. It
also regulates pesticide products used in this country and establishes tolerances or
maximum limits for pesticide residues allowed on imported and domestic food commodities
and animal feed.
State and local partners also have an important role to play in food safety. The
Administration has a long history of reaching out to its State and local partners and has
worked effectively with them utilizing a variety of mechanisms: cooperative agreements,
contracts, grants, memoranda of understanding and partnerships.
Food safety can only be effective if it has a strong underpinning in scientific
research and risk
assessment. The Federal government has major capabilities to perform both basic and
applied research related to food safety problems. Our Federal research resources include
research conducted at CDC, NIH, and FDA, as well as that performed at FDA's National Institute for Food
Safety Technology (Moffet Center), and that performed by USDA's Agricultural Research Service
(ARS), and USDA's partnerships with the nation's land grant universities via the Cooperative State Research, Education
and Extension Service (CSREES).
Together these Federal agencies promote food safety and prevent foodborne illness and
food hazards through inspections; surveillance; enforcement; research and risk assessment;
premarket approval of food and color additives, pesticides, and new animal drugs;
establishing controls for safe processing; working with State, local, and foreign
governments; partnering with academia and the private sector, and education.
III. Building an Effective Food Safety System
The Administration has consistently worked to build an effective food
safety system that is grounded in science and that includes strong surveillance, research,
education, risk assessment, and enforcement. In January of 1997, the President directed
three Cabinet members - the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Health and Human Services,
and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency - to identify specific steps to
improve the safety of the food supply. A program designed to fill the existing gaps was
presented to the President in the May 1997 report entitled, "Food Safety from Farm to Table: A National Food-Safety Initiative."
The goal of this initiative was to further reduce the incidence of foodborne illness
due to microbial contamination to the greatest extent feasible. The initiative recognized
foodborne illness as an emerging public health hazard that required aggressive government
action, identified critical gaps in the food safety system for controlling or eliminating
foodborne pathogens from the food supply, and proposed a strategy for closing those gaps.
The initiative focused our efforts on hazards that present the greatest risk and sought to
make the best use of public and private resources. These elements have been key to the
success of our efforts. We will discuss later all of the Administration's accomplishments in these
The 1998 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, "Ensuring Safe Food from
Production to Consumption" reaffirmed these principles. The NAS report defined the operational
charge or mission of an effective food safety system as "to protect and improve
the public health by ensuring that foods meet science-based safety standards through the
integrated activities of the public and private sectors." It defined the elements
of a good system as:
- Adequate surveillance and monitoring
- A science-based foundation using risk analysis
- Focused education and research
- Effective and consistent regulation and enforcement
- Response and adaptation to new technology and changing consumer needs
- Adequate human and financial resources
- Partnerships with Federal, State, local and private sector stakeholders
Recognizing the need to go further, the President established the Council on Food
Safety in August 1998, jointly chaired by Agriculture Secretary Glickman, Health and Human
Services Secretary Shalala, and Dr. Neal Lane, the President's science advisor and
Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The Council's goal is to make the food
supply even safer through a seamless, science-based food safety system supported by
well-coordinated surveillance, standards, inspection, enforcement, research, risk
assessment, education, and strategic planning.
IV. Accomplishments of the U.S. Food Safety System
Food safety has been a high priority for the Administration since it
took office. Beginning in 1993, actions taken by the Administration have led to
significant improvements in the safety of our food supply. These achievements range from
regulatory initiatives including promulgating rules on seafood, meat, and poultry HACCP
and declaring E. coli O157:H7 as an adulterant in raw ground beef - to statutory changes such as
passage of the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996 and significant amendments to the Safe
Drinking Water Act in 1996 This year, for the third consecutive year, the Administration
has coordinated a multi-agency effort to protect the health of the American public by
improving the safety of the Nation's food supply. Through joint planning, coordination,
and implementation, the Administration has worked to maximize the use of its resources and
has continued to improve food safety.
Following on these efforts, the recommendations in the May 1997 report
were comprehensive and ambitious and led to a needed shift in attention and resources
toward the growing problem of microbial contamination of food. The recommendations
- Developing and expanding an early warning system for food-borne illness;
- Creating a national electronic network for fingerprint comparison;
- Improving outbreak containment through better Federal-State-local coordination;
- Establishing a risk assessment consortium;
- Improving pathogen detection methods;
- Understanding antibiotic resistance;
- Improving prevention techniques to avoid, reduce, or eliminate pathogens;
- Implementing seafood, meat, and poultry HACCP;
- Enhancing the safety of foods at retail;
- Enhancing coverage of imported foods;
- Improving consumer, retail, and food service education;
- Conducting research to identify barriers to safe food handling; and
- Developing a strategic plan.
In just two years the Administration has delivered on these extensive commitments. The
vast majority of the recommendations have been implemented and already are leading to
important improvements in our food safety system.
These successes were aided by the tremendous support we have received from Congress
over the last several years.
The following examples highlight key achievements of this Administration - including accomplishments
under the Food Safety Initiative -- and demonstrate how the U.S. food safety system is
founded on the elements of a good system consistent with those articulated by the National
Academy of Sciences. (See also attached list of accomplishments.)
Surveillance, Monitoring, and Outbreak Response
The primary objective of the American system of public health is to prevent disease
before it occurs. Surveillance and monitoring are critical to meet this objective.
Outbreak response is also critical because even an ideal food safety system will not be
able to prevent all foodborne illness, but rapid action can contain an outbreak once it is
FoodNet Surveillance Network. A strong food safety system starts with knowing where
the problems are and identifying new problems rapidly. In July 1995, HHS and USDA began a
collaborative project to collect more precise information on foodborne illnesses, and to
conduct related epidemiologic investigations to help public health officials better
understand the epidemiology of foodborne disease in the U.S. Now expanded under the
President's Food Safety Initiative, FoodNet provides a strong network for responding to
new and emerging foodborne diseases of national importance, monitoring the burden of
foodborne diseases, and identifying the source of specific foodborne diseases - all with a view toward
developing and implementing effective prevention and control measures. Recent results from
FoodNet show a 44 percent decrease in the infection rate for Salmonella Enteritidis (SE),
a serious infection associated with poultry and eggs, from 1996 to 1998 in the areas of
the country under surveillance, and a 15 percent decline in illnesses caused by
Campylobacter, the most common bacterial foodborne pathogen in the U.S. Also, FoodNet data
help to document the effectiveness of new food safety control measures such as USDA's Pathogen Reduction and Hazard
Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Rule as well as HACCP programs undertaken by
the FDA for seafood and other food products. For example, some of the changes in rates of
food-borne illness may reflect that FDA and FSIS prevention efforts are working.
PulseNet. PulseNet, developed by CDC, enables a national network of public health
laboratories to perform DNA "fingerprinting" on bacteria that may be foodborne and compare results through an
electronic database maintained by CDC. Now a collaborative effort among HHS, USDA and
several states, PulseNet permits rapid and accurate detection of food-borne illness
outbreaks and traceback to their sources, including detection of disparate multi-state
outbreaks that may have gone undetected. PulseNet has been key in rapidly detecting and
controlling numerous outbreaks of foodborne illness, including multi-state outbreaks. For
example, last year PulseNet connected two seemingly independent E.coli O157:H7
outbreaks in Michigan to a common source-alfalfa sprouts; helped confirm that about 50
cases of E. coli O157:H7 in Wisconsin were attributable to cheese curds from a
single facility, after initial inspections did not reveal the source of contamination; and
connected E.coli O157:H7 outbreaks from ground beef with specific processors. In
addition, without PulseNet, it is very unlikely that the recent outbreak of listeriosis
from ready to eat meat products would have been recognized and identified as emanating
from one source. Since the illnesses were dispersed across a wide geographic region, the
comparative matching of pathogen strains via PulseNet facilitated the epidemiological
investigation that led to the recall of contaminated product.
Antibiotic Resistance. The National Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS)
was established in 1996 as an interagency cooperative activity to monitor emerging
resistance to antibiotics in foodborne pathogens, beginning with Salmonella. The
effort is coordinated and directed by HHS and USDA. NARMS was enhanced in FY98 to improve
our ability to detect emerging antibiotic resistance among foodborne pathogens. Using
NARMS, HHS and USDA collaborated in response to an outbreak of salmonellosis among
residents of a Vermont dairy farm. NARMS helped determine that Salmonella Typhimurium DT
104 was widespread in the U.S., prompting CDC to warn State health departments of its
presence and provide preventive steps to minimize its spread.
In addition, under the leadership of HHS, and with USDA as a full participant, a Task
Force has been formed to produce a public health action plan to combat antimicrobial
resistance. The Task Force is chaired by FDA, NIH and CDC. A public meeting was recently
held in Atlanta with federal participants and experts from across the country. This public
meeting covered many issues concerning human medical use and misuse, animal agriculture
use and misuse, and plant protection uses of antimicrobial agents. Work to develop this
action plan will proceed over the next year.
FORC G. In 1998, Vice President Gore announced the formation of the Foodborne
Outbreak Response Coordinating Group (FORC G), a partnership of Federal, State, and local
agencies established to better respond to foodborne illness outbreaks. The role of this
interagency group is to coordinate and develop procedures for managing outbreaks, share
information on potential sources of outbreaks and pathogens, and coordinate
interdepartmental action on those issues when necessary.
Science-Based Foundation Using Risk Analysis
The Administration's food safety efforts are firmly grounded in science. Thus, we agree with
the NAS report's focus on the use of scientific risk assessment to develop rules that will
have the most positive influence on Public Health. Risk analyses are helpful in defining
the extent of scientific certainty and in helping decision-makers make the tough decisions
a science-based food safety system requires.
Risk Assessment Consortium. The Risk Assessment Consortium (RAC), formed in 1997,
is composed of USDA, HHS, and EPA. The RAC has accomplished numerous interagency
activities that have helped advance the science of microbial risk assessment. The RAC
established an intramural research program with projects intended to provide data for use
in microbial risk assessment modeling. In addition, the Risk Assessment Clearinghouse was
established, through FDA's joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN) to serve
as a repository for data, methods, and tools for food safety risk assessment.
Risk Assessments. In 1998, USDA and HHS completed a farm-to-table quantitative risk
assessment for Salmonella Enteritidis in eggs and egg products, which served as the
foundation for both agencies' regulatory actions to address the safety of eggs and egg products. In
addition, the Administration is conducting or supporting needed risk assessments and
analyses on Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), listeria monocytogenes in food,
vibrio parahaemolyticus in shellfish, antimicrobial resistance in food producing
animals, and E. coli 0157:H7 in beef.
Since 1997, research has been a key component of the President's Food Safety Initiative
and these efforts have been supported by Congress. From developing new tools to identify,
prevent, or eliminate hazards from contaminated food, to performing basic research on
pathogens and their impact on humans and animals, to researching and conveying important
information for consumers about safe food handling methods, food safety research plays an
integral role in the Administration's food safety strategy. The Administration has taken additional steps in
recent years that have provided an expanded role for research in the U.S. food safety
system. In 1999, Congress supported this effort and supplied to HHS and USDA additional
funding for research and risk assessment. We are grateful for support for research in 1997
and 1998 as well, having received a total of $68.7 million in 1997, $83.8 million in 1998,
and $107.5 million in 1999.
Joint Institute for Food Safety Research. In July 1998, building on the work of the
Interagency Working Group on Food Safety Research, the President directed the Secretaries
of HHS and USDA to create the Joint Institute for Food Safety Research (JIFSR), through
the President's Council on Food Safety. JIFSR will coordinate planning and priority setting for food
safety research among the two Departments, other government agencies, and the private
sector and will foster effective translation of research results into practice. The JIFSR,
expects to optimize food safety research investments, channel Federal resources to
research that is needed to minimize the impact of current and emerging food safety
problems, and avoid research redundancies. In addition, USDA through the direction of the
Agricultural Research Service and its National Agricultural Library, is developing a
national database on food safety research which will be housed under JIFSR. The database
will contain information on all Federal food safety research and will attempt to document
private sector investments in food safety research. The database will provide one
additional mechanism for communicating the range of food safety research and potential
Interagency Working Group on Food Safety Research. Late last month, the Interagency
Working Group on Food Safety Research, through the National Science and Technology
Council, completed its report documenting the government-wide inventory of microbial food
safety research, which has helped identify information gaps and priorities for future
research. The analysis contained in this report will contribute to the planning activities
of JIFSR. The report should now be available on the OSTP homepage.
Advancements in Research. The investment in food safety research already is paying
off for the industries. Some examples of recent research breakthroughs include the
discovery by NIH of a potential vaccine for E. coli O157:H7; development by ARS of
new animal drugs which can help preempt the growth of Salmonella in the intestines
of newly hatched broiler chicks; the development of a five minute rapid test to identify
generic bacteria on meat and an improved technique to directly detect and quantify harmful
E.coli within 30 minutes (improved from previous times of 24 to 48 hours); and the
isolation of Norwalk virus from shellfish by FDA. In addition, the FDA's Moffett Center is working on
non-thermal processes, including ultraviolet light, high hydrostatic pressure, and
antimicrobials, to improve the safety of juices that will not receive heat treatment.
Effective and Consistent Regulation, Guidance, and Enforcement
The Administration has concluded that Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point
(HACCP) systems provide a more effective and efficient way to reduce hazards that may be
present in food products. HACCP systems, which may be tailored to individual processing
and distribution conditions, place emphasis on the prevention of contamination in
processed foods. Because these systems attempt to identify and control microbial, chemical
and physical hazards during processing, they significantly reduce the possibility that the
final product will contain hazards that could cause human illness.
Pathogen Reduction and HACCP. In December 1995, FDA published its rule to assure
seafood safety using HACCP principles. The program is a tool for the enforcement of FDA
standards for toxins, pathogens, contaminants and residues. FDA has also proposed to
expand HACCP to fruits and vegetable juices. In July 1996, USDA published its
"Pathogen Reduction and HACCP" rule. The rule requires all
industry plants that slaughter and process meat and poultry to implement HACCP systems as
a means of preventing or controlling contamination from pathogens and other hazards.
Initial reports following HACCP implementation are encouraging. An independent study
conducted by the Sea Grant University at Stony Brook, N.Y., has reported that the seafood
HACCP regulations are having a positive impact on the seafood industry. In addition, the
meat and poultry performance standards, which require FSIS testing to determine if plants
are meeting or exceeding standards for the occurrence of salmonella in a product,
and its mandate that plants test for the occurrence of generic E. coli as an
indicator of their controls for fecal contamination, have led to recognizable results as
cited by CDC in March 1999. Also, as a result of pre HACCP testing and post HACCP
implementation tests for performance, FSIS was able to report declines in salmonella on
broilers by almost 50 percent.
Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)/Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). In response
to a Presidential directive, and after receiving significant public input, FDA, working
with USDA, published its October 1998 Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. The guide addresses key areas where precautions should be
taken to ensure safety: water quality, worker hygiene, field and facility sanitation,
manure management, and transportation. The agencies are now working together to educate
the agricultural industry - both domestically and internationally - on the recommendations
included in the guidance.
Improved Protection for Imported Foods. The increasingly global nature of the food
safety system that FDA regulates presents significant challenges. On July 3, 1999,
President Clinton directed FDA and the U.S. Customs Service to strengthen our border
protection through all available actions - such as preventing "port shopping," destroying imported food that poses a health risk, increasing the amount
of bond posted for imported food to deter premature entry in the U.S., and enhancing enforcement actions, including increased civil monetary penalties. A report is due to the President in 90 days. The President also called on Congress to pass legislation that would
further enhance Federal authority over FDA-regulated imported food -
USDA already having adequate authority to inspect and enforce.
Responding and Adapting to New Technology and Changing Consumer Needs
Going beyond the basics of GAPs/GMPs, and HACCP approaches, the Administration also is
working to encourage the application of new technologies to solve food safety problems.
These efforts are focused in research and development, particularly on technologies
suitable for small businesses, and in streamlining reviews in those cases where premarket
approval is required for use of a new technology.
New Technology Development. Some of the exciting and new technologies developed by
industry as well as our food safety agencies include irradiation, steam pasteurization for
meat and poultry carcasses, pulsed light to reduce pathogens on raw or cooked food
products, hydrostatic pressure for shellfish, antimicrobial rinses to reduce pathogens on
raw products, and competitive exclusion to reduce Salmonella levels in poultry on
farms. FDA and EPA have also expedited premarket reviews of food additives and safer
pesticides as a means to encourage development of these new technologies and tools.
Adequate Human and Financial Resources
The Administration has requested and Congress has funded increases for the food safety
initiative over the last two fiscal years, which has served as the foundation for many of
our successes. Funding this year's request, an increase of more than $70 million for the Initiative, is
critical if we are to continue advancing our food safety agenda. Our food safety programs
must be adequately funded so that the Federal agencies can meet their statutory
responsibilities to protect American consumers.
One immediate organizational change that the Administration currently is seeking is the
transfer of the Seafood Inspection Program (a voluntary fee-for-service program of the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the Department of Commerce) to FDA,
which will consolidate all Federal seafood inspection activities into one agency. This
voluntary program inspects and certifies fishing vessels, seafood processing plants, and
retail facilities for federal sanitation standards, and bases its safety inspections on
FDA's seafood HACCP
standards. To achieve these efficiencies, the Administration's proposal is contingent on the
President's request of $3 million to effect the transfer.
Coordinated Budget. As part of Executive
Order 13100, the President directed the
Council on Food Safety to develop annual coordinated food safety budgets. The goal is to
develop coordinated budgets that sustain and strengthen existing capacities, eliminate
duplication, help identify priority areas for investment, and ensure the most effective
use of resources for improving food safety. Efforts are currently underway to develop a
coordinated budget in FY 2001.
Education is another key element of the President's Food Safety Initiative which
has continued to receive Congressional support. The Administration has developed
educational approaches that span the farm-to-table continuum - from educating farmers,
producers, and distributers, to food handlers and preparers, to consumers.
Consumer Education. The President's Food Safety Initiative has spurred new consumer
education programs within the Administration as well as expanded cooperative ventures with
public and private partners, including other Federal agencies. One example is the
"Fight BAC!" campaign sponsored by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, a
public-private partnership, with participation of both USDA, HHS and the States. The
campaign was created to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness by educating Americans
about safe food handling practices.
Consumer Labels. In 1994, safe handling labels were mandated for meat and poultry
at retail sale, to ensure consumers understood time and temperature requirements for safe
cooking. The Administration also has adopted product-specific messages, including a
warning label on unpasteurized juices and, just last month, proposed safe handling
instructions for shell eggs.
Partnerships with State and Local Governments
The NAS report recognized the important role that State and local governments play in
food safety. Both FDA, FSIS, and EPA historically have strong partnerships with States.
For example, the states are directly involved with FDA in the regulation of milk and
shellfish safety through the National Conference of Interstate Milk Shippers, and the
Interstate Shellfish Shippers Conference, as well as through the Seafood HACCP Alliance,
which provided extensive training to seafood processors after publication of the final
seafood HACCP regulation. Twenty-five States operate inspection programs for meat and
poultry under cooperative agreements and with shared funding from FSIS.
Food Code. FDA and FSIS work with the States to encourage uniformity among the
State laws affecting food safety in retail and food service establishments. The principal
mechanism for this is the Food Code - a model code published by FDA intended for adoption by State and local
authorities for use in regulating retail food and food service establishments. It is
essential that the Federal government provide training both to the States and local
governments, as well as to the retail and food service industry, to be sure that the
critical elements of the Food Code are properly applied. Currently, 14 States have adopted
the Food Code and adoption is pending in 22 others.
V. Where Do We Go From Here
At the beginning of his first term, President Clinton set a course to strengthen the
safety system. Under the President's leadership, we have enhanced surveillance of foodborne disease and
better coordinated our response to outbreaks. We have improved coordination of food safety
programs, issued regulations that are science-based, and targeted important new research
and risk assessment to critical scientific gaps. And, we have strengthened education and
training, especially for those who handle food at critical points from the retail setting
to the home.
The Administration is proud of all we have accomplished, particularly the great strides
we have made over the last few years. However, this is only the beginning. As good as the
system is, there is much more to be done. As the challenges to our food safety system
continue to evolve, we must adapt our system to meet these changing needs. And, we must
ensure that our food safety system is capable of responding to and preventing foodborne
illness and food hazards through the most effective means possible.
For these reasons, the President directed his Council on Food Safety to develop a
comprehensive strategic food safety plan. The plan will address the full range of food
safety issues, long- and short-term, to further ensure the health and safety of the nation's food supply. The plan will
help set priorities, improve coordination and efficiency, identify gaps in the current
system and ways to fill those gaps, enhance and strengthen prevention and intervention
strategies, and identify reliable measures to indicate progress.
As part of this process, the Council will conduct a thorough assessment of the existing
statutes, evaluate the degree of regulatory flexibility that currently exists and
determine what improvements will require statutory changes. In addition, the Council will
conduct an assessment of structural and organizational options and other mechanisms that
could strengthen the federal food safety system before recommending major legislative or
administrative actions on reorganization.
To draft the strategic plan, the Council established an interagency Strategic Planning
Task Force, which we co-chair. The Task Force, along with five working groups, has
developed a draft set of goals and objectives which have been shared with various
stakeholders to seek their input. Those stakeholders and Council representatives engaged
on July 15, 1999 in an important exchange of views on the food safety system of the future
at a public meeting in Washington. A second public meeting is scheduled for October 1999
to review strategic planning progress that will be made over the next few months. The
Council expects to provide a draft plan to the public in early 2000 and invite additional
comments. The final document is due to the President in July 2000.
We firmly believe that establishing a seamless, science-based food safety system is
critical to ensuring the safety of our food supply and protecting public health. How we
get there should be carefully thought through with all of our partners and stakeholders.
We assure you that we are approaching this effort seriously and expeditiously, and are
considering the full range of options available to us.
Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our food safety program and our continued
efforts in this area. We look forward to working with the Subcommittee on the next steps
to continue to improve the nations food supply.
Clinton/Gore Administration Accomplishments in Improving Food Safety (www.hhs.gov/progorg/asl/testify/t990804d.html)
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