[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1997, Book II)]
[October 2, 1997]
[Pages 1283-1285]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks Announcing a Food Safety Initiative and an Exchange With 
October 2, 1997

    The President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President, Secretary Shalala, 
Deputy Secretary Rominger, Cathie Woteki, Dr. Friedman, all the 
representatives of the groups that have helped us come to this day.
    Our Government made a fundamental promise to the American people of 
a bountiful and safe food supply way back at the beginning of this 
century. It is a promise that we have had to renew our commitment to 
periodically over the years and a promise that needed a lot of work when 
I became President. From the day I took office, I worked very hard to 
honor that commitment, to make our food supply the world's safest, even 
    In 1993 the Vice President's National Performance Review recommended 
an overhaul of our food safety procedures so that we could use the best 
scientific technology available in inspection methods to make sure that 
we had put in the best preventive controls to keep our food supply the 
world's safest.
    Since then, we have taken major steps. We first put in place 
rigorous new safety standards for seafood, meat, and poultry products, 
throwing out archaic and ineffective methods of inspection that had not 
been updated for nearly a century. We've required slaughterhouses to 
test for deadly E. coli and salmonella bacteria. We've begun developing 
new safety standards for fruit and vegetable juices. We've strengthened 
our system of guaranteeing that our drinking water will remain safe and 
improved public health protections for pesticide uses on food. And we 
brought a host of Federal agencies together to boost food safety 
research, education, and surveillance efforts around our Nation. In so 
doing, we're using the world's best science to help prevent food 
contamination tragedies before they happen, to make sure our supply of 
food is as safe as it can be.
    Today, our food supply remains the world's safest, but we can't rest 
on those accomplishments. We have to do more. At the time when Americans 
are eating more and more food from around the globe, we must spare no 
effort to ensure the safety of our food supply from whatever source. 
Today I want to tell you the new steps we're taking to ensure that our 
fruits and vegetables, including those imported from other countries, 
meet the highest health and safety standards.

[[Page 1284]]

    First, I'm asking Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration 
the power and the obligation to ban the importation of fruits, 
vegetables, and other foods from countries whose safety precautions do 
not meet American standards. This new law would be similar to a law that 
already requires the United States Department of Agriculture to keep 
meat and poultry from countries with inferior food safety systems out of 
our stores.
    In my next budget, I will provide enough funds to ensure that the 
FDA can fully implement this new legislation by dramatically expanding 
its international food inspection force. With these efforts, we can make 
sure that no fruits and vegetables cross our borders, enter our ports, 
or reach our dinner tables without meeting the same strict standards as 
those grown here in America. Our food safety system is the strongest in 
the world, and that's how it's going to stay.
    I'm also directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services and 
the Secretary of Agriculture to work together in close cooperation with 
the agricultural community to develop the first-ever specific safety 
standards for the growing, processing, shipping, and selling of fruits 
and vegetables. These standards will address potential food safety 
problems throughout the production and distribution system, and they'll 
improve the sanitation and safety practices of all those seeking to sell 
produce in the United States market.
    I'm asking Secretaries Shalala and Glickman to report back to me 
within 90 days with a complete schedule for developing these standards 
within a year. I'll also ask them to submit a comprehensive plan to 
improve the monitoring of food safety programs abroad, to help foreign 
countries upgrade their safety precautions and toughen food inspections 
at the border.
    Being a parent is perhaps the toughest job in the world. Our parents 
deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing the food they set 
before their children is safe. With today's new actions, we can help 
make their jobs much easier.
    And, again, let me thank all of those who were involved in this 
effort as I sign this order. Thank you very much.

[At this point, the President signed the memorandum on the food safety 

    The President. Thanks.

Line Item Veto

    Q. Mr. President, will you be using the line item veto----
    The President. Excuse me?
    Q. Will you be using the line item veto on any of the appropriations 
bills that you've just passed--that you've just signed?
    The President. Well, let me say, I have received only--I've received 
one memorandum from my staff on one bill. And that came in late last 
night, so I haven't read it. But I will consider it--as the bills come 
in, I will ask for a review of the potential uses by specific bill and 
make judgments as we go along. I have nothing to report at this time, 
because I have received only one memorandum, and I haven't read it.

2000 Decennial Census

    Q. What about the census, sir? Do you have any concerns concerning 
the Commerce bill and the particular ways that the money will be used 
for the census?
    The President. Well, my feeling is that we ought to do the census as 
well as we can. I don't think this is a complicated issue. The National 
Science Foundation has recommended this statistical sampling method. The 
man who did President Bush's census says that it's the only way to get 
the most accurate count. I just want to do whatever the Census Bureau 
believes, the full-time professionals believe is the most accurate thing 
to do.
    I think that's a heavy constitutional responsibility we have, to 
conduct a census that is as accurate as possible based on what the 
professionals say. This ought to be a professional, not a political 
judgment. And that's the position I will take throughout.
    Q. Mr. President, did the Democratic Party send money to the States 
because of Federal election law restrictions?
    Q. Mr. President, there are fresh fruit and vegetable producers that 
are saying----
    The President. Well, wait a minute. I'll take both of them. Go ahead 

Food Safety

    Q. There are fresh fruit and vegetable producers that are saying 
that you're acting with this action as the world food police and that 
your actions here today are unwarranted and that's going to complicate 
the trade environment.

[[Page 1285]]

    The President. Well, I hope it doesn't complicate the trade 
environment. But you know, it seems to me that we have no higher 
responsibility than to protect the health and safety of our citizens, 
and everyone who has been following all of your reporting over the last 
4 or 5 years knows that we have had continuing challenges in food 
safety. We have millions of people who get sick every year. And we're 
not trying to unfairly target foreign producers of food into our market. 
We don't ask them to meet any standards we don't meet. And indeed, if 
you look at the actions of this administration over the last 4 years, 
when we started, I think you can make a compelling case that we started 
working on things that were problems coming out of the American market 
first. So I just don't think that's right.
    I don't want it to complicate the trade environment, but I'm not 
interested in trade in things that will make the American people sick.

1996 Campaign Financing

    Q. Mr. President, did the Democratic National Committee send money 
to the States in order to get around the Federal spending limits that 
went along with accepting Federal money for the national campaign, sir?
    The President. It's my understanding that everything the Democratic 
National Committee did had the prior approval of the lawyers. If they 
cleared it all in advance, then it was perfectly legal. And when this 
issue was raised about a year ago, the exact issue, I believe that that 
was clarified at that time. I'm sure that they had legal advice that 
they followed, and I believe the Republicans said that they did some of 
the same things and also had prior legal clearance.
    Q. Mr. Clinton, do you feel that Mrs. Reno--she's been advised to go 
forward with the 90-day investigation into the fundraising calls of the 
Vice President--and perhaps Mr. Gore would like to comment, too----
    The President. I think that----
    Q. ----do you feel that the 90-day investigation would be helpful?
    The President. Well, if you read the statute, she can consider 
certain things in the 90-day period that are not permitted in the 30-day 
period. But I think this is a legal question, and it should be done 
based on an independent legal review with no pressure from the outside, 
from me, or from anyone else. And that's the way I intend to keep it, at 
least on my part.
    Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 10:59 a.m. in the Rose Garden at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Catherine Woteki, Acting Under 
Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics; and 
Michael A. Friedman, Lead Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Food and 
Drug Administration.