[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1998, Book I)]
[May 11, 1998]
[Page 739]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Letter to Congressional Leaders on Food Safety Legislation
May 11, 1998

Dear Mr. Speaker:  (Dear Mr. Leader:)
    The report to be released today by the General Accounting Office 
(GAO) calls on Congress to give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 
the authority to ensure that food eligible for import to the United 
States is produced under food safety systems that will provide the same 
level of protection as the safety systems in place in the United States. 
This report is further confirmation of the need for Congress to pass the 
Safety of Imported Food Act, which I called for in October 1997, which 
Senators Mikulski and Kennedy, and Representatives Eshoo 
and Pallone have introduced.
    This important legislation will do what the GAO says is necessary: 
it will ensure that the FDA denies the entry of imports of fruits, 
vegetables, or other food from a foreign country or facility that does 
not meet U.S. food safety requirements or otherwise achieve the level of 
protection required in the United States. It will give FDA the authority 
it urgently needs, comparable to the Department of Agriculture's 
existing authority to prevent the importation of unsafe meat and 
poultry, to protect the safety of the food Americans eat. I have taken 
several further steps to begin implementing standards to ensure the 
safety of imported food. My FY '99 budget committed approximately $25 
million to enabling the FDA to dramatically expand its international 
food inspection force in order to implement the pending legislation. In 
March of this year, I released a report on how the Secretary of Health 
and Human Services, in partnership with the Secretary of Agriculture, 
and in cooperation with the agricultural community, will develop 
guidance on good agricultural and manufacturing practices that will 
apply to both domestic and foreign producers.
    There is no more important task our government faces than ensuring 
the safety of the American food supply. That is why last year Vice 
President Gore and I announced my comprehensive new initiative, ``Food 
Safety from Farm to Table''--which detailed a comprehensive program 
including surveillance, outbreak response, education and research. The 
Safety of Imported Food Act is another vital step in protecting the 
safety of all the food Americans eat, and I urge you to pass it 

                                                      William J. Clinton

Note: Identical letters were sent to Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House 
of Representatives; Trent Lott, Senate majority leader; Thomas A. 
Daschle, Senate minority leader; Richard K. Armey, House majority 
leader; and Richard A. Gephardt, House minority leader. An original was 
not available for verification of the content of this letter.