[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[October 2, 1997]
[Pages 1285-1286]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]



Memorandum on the Food Safety Initiative
October 2, 1997

Memorandum for the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary 
of Agriculture

Subject: Initiative to Ensure the Safety of Imported and Domestic Fruits 
and Vegetables

    American consumers today enjoy the safest food supply in the world, 
and I am proud of my Administration's record in this area. We have taken 
significant steps to ensure that we maintain the safest food possible. 
We have put in place improved safety standards for meat, poultry, and 
seafood products, and we have begun the process of developing enhanced 
safety standards for fruit and vegetable juices. We have also expanded 
research, education, and surveillance activities through coordinated 
efforts of all agencies involved in food safety issues. Together, these 
measures will greatly improve the safety of the Nation's food supply.
    We need to build on these efforts, and today I ask you to do so by 
focusing on the safety of fruits and vegetables. Although the produce 
Americans eat is very safe, we can and must do even better, especially 
at a time when Americans are eating more fruits and vegetables from all 
over the world. Last year, 38 percent of the fruit and 12 percent of the 
vegetables consumed by Americans came from overseas. We

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must ensure that fruits and vegetables coming from abroad are as safe as 
those produced in the United States, especially as we upgrade our own 
domestic standards.
    To help accomplish this task, I plan to send to the Congress 
proposed legislation that will require the Food and Drug Administration 
(FDA) to halt imports of fruits, vegetables, or other food from any 
foreign country whose food safety systems and standards are not on par 
with those of the United States. This legislation, which will be similar 
to existing law requiring the USDA to halt the importation of meat and 
poultry from such countries, will enable the FDA to prevent the 
importation of potentially unsafe foreign produce. My Fiscal Year 1999 
budget will provide the necessary funds to enable the FDA to expand 
dramatically its international food inspection force. With this greatly 
increased ability to inspect food safety conditions abroad and at points 
of entry, the FDA will be able to determine when to halt the importation 
of fruits and vegetables from foreign countries.
    Today, I hereby direct two administrative actions that will better 
ensure the safety of fruits and vegetables coming from abroad, while 
continuing to improve the safety of domestic produce.
    First, I direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in 
partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture and in close cooperation 
with the agricultural community, to issue within 1 year from the date of 
this memorandum, guidance on good agricultural practices and good 
manufacturing practices for fruits and vegetables. This guidance should 
address ways to prevent potential sources of contamination, should take 
into account differences in both crops and regions, and should address 
food safety issues throughout the food production and distribution 
system. By providing the first-ever specific safety standards for fruits 
and vegetables, the guidance will improve the agricultural and 
manufacturing practices of all those seeking to sell produce in the U.S. 
market. To ensure that this guidance has the widest possible effect, I 
also direct the development of coordinated outreach and educational 
activities.
    Second, I direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the 
Secretary of Agriculture, to report back to me within 90 days from the 
date of this memorandum with a status report and complete schedule for 
the good agricultural and manufacturing practices, and a plan on how to 
improve the monitoring of agricultural and manufacturing practices 
abroad, to assist foreign countries to improve those practices where 
necessary, and to prevent the importation of unsafe produce, including 
by detecting unsafe food at the dock or border. I especially urge you to 
consider the best ways to target inspection and testing toward those 
areas where problems are most likely to occur.
    In addition to taking these actions, you should accelerate whatever 
food safety research is necessary to support them. You should also call 
upon the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and 
other agencies as necessary, to provide you with assistance in achieving 
this goal. These steps, taken together and in coordination with the 
proposed legislation I will send to the Congress, will improve the 
safety of fruits and vegetables for all Americans.

                                                      William J. Clinton