For Immediate
March 15, 1999

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Recipe for Safe Food

CSPI Calls for “More Solutions, Instead of More Studies“
Statement of Caroline Smith DeWaal Director, Food Safety Program on the President’s Council on Food Safety’s Assessment of the National Academy of Science’s Report, "Ensuring Safe Food from Production to Consumption"

In an August 1998 report, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) called for the appointment of an "identifiable, high-ranking, presidentially-appointed head, who would direct and coordinate federal activities and speak to the nation, giving federal food safety efforts a single voice." The NAS report said it is critical that the person have both legal authority and budgetary control for food safety. The NAS stressed the need for better science and clearer statutory mandates in conjunction with a more streamlined system to correct the current deficiencies. Today, the President’s Council on Food Safety, which includes the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, reported to the President on the findings of the NAS report. The following is a statement of Caroline Smith DeWaal:

“Top officials in the Clinton administration agreed with the National Academy of Sciences today that in the federal government, there is no one person or single agency in charge of food safety. Food safety functions are scattered among government agencies like gold coins at Mardi Gras. The federal food safety system is both ineffective and inefficient at addressing today’s complex food safety problems.

“While the President’s Council endorses the NAS recommendation to create “a uniform and central framework for managing federal food safety programs, one that is headed by a single official,” it fails to respond to calls for a single food safety agency from consumer groups and members of Congress. Instead, the Council promises to study the existing weaknesses and develop additional recommendations.

“By endorsing the findings of the NAS study, the President’s Council confirms that gaps and weaknesses in federal programs exacerbate food safety problems, resulting in continuing deaths and illnesses from contaminated food. Presidential leadership is clearly needed if we are to overcome Washington turf battles, and get more solutions, instead of more studies.”

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a nonprofit health-advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. It is well-known for advocating improved food-inspection programs and safer food additives. CSPI is supported largely by the one million U.S. and Canadian subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter.

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