Redistributed as a Service of the National Library for the Environment*
Updated October 23, 1998
Chronology (in reverse order)
Sept. 1998 The Senate Government Affairs Committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations concluded hearings on the safety of imported foods.
The USDA announced that the incidence of Salmonella contamination in chickens dropped by nearly half in the first six months of the new inspection system known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), a preventive approach to determining where contamination might occur all the way through the production chain.
The USDA issued final rules requiring that eggs be kept refrigerated at 45 degrees Fahrenheit while being processed, shipped, and displayed for sale. Eggs will also have to carry a label saying that they must be refrigerated.
The FDA warned that children, pregnant women, and the elderly should not eat alfalfa sprouts until growers find a way to reduce bacterial contamination. In California, 60 people fell ill after eating sprouts contaminated with E. coli Ol 57:H7 bacteria; last year, 36 people were hospitalized after similar outbreaks in Michigan and Virginia.
Microbiologists at Cornell University announced that they had found a way to virtually rid cattle of harmful strains of E. coli bacteria by switching them from a grain-based diet to a diet of hay or fresh grass for 5 days before slaughter. The study was published in the September 11, 1998 issue of the journal Science.ent's Council on Food Safety, headed by the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services a
Aug. 1998 President Clinton established the
Presind the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology. It will recommend changes needed to reach food safety goals, coordinate the food safety budgets of all federal agencies, and develop priorities for food safety research. It will also report to the President within 180 days with its views on the National Academy of Sciences report noted below.
The National Academy of Sciences issued a report recommending that the federal government adopt a science-based approach to food safety, and that a unified, central framework be established to coordinate all federal food safety activities.
July 1998 The FDA published a final rule requiring producers of fresh, unpasteurized cider and juices to put labels on their products warning of the possible danger of E. coli and other microbial contamination. A proposed rule would also require manufacturers to produce juices under a HACCP plan.
June 1998 E. coli enterotoxigeinc, also known as ETEC, sickened more than 4,000 people in Illinois and was traced to contaminated potato salad.
E. coli 0157:H7 was spread through fecal contamination of a kiddie pool at a water park in the Atlanta area, killing one child, and sickening 26 others, some very seriously. Health investigators believe that the bacteria was brought into the pool by an infected child, but do not know the source.
May 1998 The Clinton Administration initiated a national computer network called PulseNet, which links food safety investigators at CDC, FDA, USDA, state health departments, and public health laboratories. It is designed to enable scientists to fingerprint pathogens in contaminated foods to halt the spread of foodbome illness.
April 1998 A report of the General Accounting Office said that federal efforts to ensure the safety of imported foods are inconsistent and unreliable. It also recommended legislation authorizing the FDA to ban food imports from countries without safety systems at least equal to that in the United States.
The FDA issued draft voluntary guidelines to reduce bacteria in fresh fruits and vegetables by improving agricultural and processing practices.
Feb.1998 President Clinton's budget request for fiscal year 1999 included an additional $101 million to broaden the national food safety initiative.
Jan.1998 Meat and poultry slaughtering and processing plants with more than 500 employees began operating under a HACCP system.
Dec. 1997 The FDA implemented new regulations requiring the seafood industry to implement HACCP-based safety Systems.
The FDA approved the use of irradiation to kill disease-causing bacteria in red meat.
The FDA banned imports of raspberries from Guatemala for the 1998 season after they were linked to cyclospora outbreaks which sickened more than 2,400 people in 1996 and 1997.
Nov.1997 Salmonella poisoning was traced to ham stuffed with greens and spices and served at a church supper in rural Maryland. Over 700 people were infected, including 31 who were hospitalized and two who died.
Oct.1997 President Clinton announced a new initiative to improve the safety of imported fruits and vegetables and to develop guidance on good agricultural and manufacturing practices for domestic produce.
A campaign called "Fight BAC!" was armounced by a public-private partnership, consisting of government, industry, and consumer groups. Its purpose is to educate consumers and food industry workers on the problem of foodborne illness and to motivate them to take basic steps to improve sanitation and safe food handling.
USDA Secretary Dan Glickman asked Congress to pass new legislation granting the USDA the authority to order mandatory recalls of contaminated meats and poultry and to levy fines against violators.
Aug.1997 The FDA asked makers of unpasteurized juice and cider to voluntarily label their products to indicate that they might contain bacteria. The FDA said that they are working towards requiring makers of fresh juices to pasteurize or to use a HACCP inspection system to monitor possible points in production where contamination could occur.
E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak in Colorado, which sickened 20 people, led to a recall of 25 million pounds of suspected contaminated beef from Hudson Foods Company, the largest such recall in U.S. history
July 1997 Cyclospora cases were linked to basil products which were possibly contaminated due to inconsistent refrigeration and/or infected kitchen workers at a Washington, D.C., area gourmet food store. Nearly 300 people became ill in June and July.
E. coli 0157:H7-contaminated alfalfa sprouts were responsible for the illness of 70 people in Michigan and Virginia, according to the CDC.
May 1997 Vice President Gore announced a strategic interagency plan, Food Safety: From Farm to Table, which the President had requested in January 1997.
Spring 1997 Cyclospora found in raspberries from Guatemala is thought to have caused most of the 1,400 cases of cyclospora illness in 17 states which were reported to the CDC in 1997.
April 1997 Hepatitis A outbreak in Michigan schools was found to have been caused by contaminated strawberries, imported from Mexico and served in the school lunch program. More than 250 children and teachers became ill.
Jan.1997 President Clinton announced that he would ask Congress for $43 million for FY1998 to fund a new national food safety initiative. (Congress later approved $41 million in new food safety funds for FY1998.) The new funds were for development of an "early warning system" to fight foodborne illness, including an increase in the number of food safety surveillance centers and better use of technology to investigate and control foodborne disease outbreaks. He also asked the USDA, DHHS, and EPA to report to him by May 1997, with a strategic plan to further improve food safety.
Oct.1996 E. coli Ol 57:H7 outbreak in three western states and Canada was traced to unpasteurized Odwalla brand apple juice products. Over 70 people became ill, and one child died. Odwalla later began pasteurizing many of its products, including apple juice.
Aug.1996 The Food Quality Protection Act of 1996 (P.L. 104-170), amending federal pesticide laws, was passed by Congress in July and signed by the President on August 3. It contains provisions limiting residues of cancer-causing chemicals in both raw and processed foods and includes separate protections for infants and children.
July 1996 The USDA published final regulations in the Federal Register on July 25 overhauling the nation's meat and poultry inspection system, the first major change in 90 years. The new regulations are based on the HACCP system and go into effect for large plants in January 1998.
E. coli 0 1 57:H7 outbreaks in Illinois, Connecticut, and New York were traced to lettuce grown on a small, organic farm in California. There were 54 reported illnesses, including 21 people who were hospitalized.
Spring 1996 Cyclospora infections were linked to raspberries from Guatemala. The CDC reported over 1,000 cases of cyclospora in 20 states in 1996, the majority believed to have resulted from consuming raspberries.
March 1994 The USDA required that labels on all packages of meat and poultry include instructions for safe handling and cooking to minimize the chance of bacterial illness.
Sept.1993 Vice President Gore's National Performance Review recommended consolidating all federal food safety responsibilities under a single agency, the FDA.
Jan. 1993 E. coli 0157;H7 outbreak in Washington state was traced to undercooked hamburgers purchased at Jack-in-the-Box Restaurants. More than 700 people became ill, 178 were hospitalized, and four children died.
June 1992 The U.S. General Accounting Office recommended that Congress hold oversight hearings to evaluate options for revamping the federal food safety system, including creation of a single food safety agency with a uniform risk-based inspection system.
Food Safety Information on the Internet
Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service http://www.fsis.usda.gov
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition http://vm.cfsan.fda.govlist.html
USDAIFDA Foodborne Illness Education Information Center http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodborne/foodborn.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Infectious Diseases http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/ncid.htm
Fight BAC! (The Partnership for Food Safety Education) http://www.fightbac.org
Major Federal Food Safety Agencies
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Food Safety and Inspection Service
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Food Safety Education Office: 202-690-0351 Meat and Poultry Hotline: 1-800-535-4555 or 202-720-3333
Food and Drug Administration
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (HFS-555)
200 C Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20204
Consumer publications: 301-443-3170
Industry publications/inquiries: 202-205-5251
Food Information and Seafood Hotline: 1-800-332-4010 or 202-205-4314
Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Pesticide Programs (7501 C)
401 C Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20460
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Infectious Diseases
1600 Clifton Road, N.E.
Atlanta, GA 30333
For more information see CRS Issue Brief 98009, Food safety Issues in the 105th Congress.
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