Clinton updates process for inspecting meat, poultry


July 6, 1996
Web posted at: 11:59 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Promising to help reassure parents about the food their children eat, President Clinton announced Saturday a new initiative to modernize meat and poultry inspections in the United States.

The new guidelines are designed to "completely revamp our meat and poultry inspection system, to revolutionize the way our nation protects food safety," Clinton said in his weekly radio address.

He made the address from the Oval Office, surrounded by the families of children who died three years ago after eating undercooked hamburgers contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

"Parents should know that when they serve a chicken dinner, they are not putting their children at risk," Clinton said. "Parents should know that when a teen-ager borrows the car to get a fast-food hamburger, the hamburger should be the least of their worries."

Meat Guidelines

Noting that the Department of Agriculture's inspection processes have changed little since the 1907 Federal Meat Inspection Act, Clinton said the new regulations will introduce scientific testing for bacteria.

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said the new guidelines represent a radical change in the way the USDA inspects meat products. (150K AIFF or WAV sound)

"Even though we know that killers such as salmonella can only be seen through the microscope, inspectors were still checking on meat and poultry by look, touch, smell," the president said. "We relied on an overworked cadre of government inspectors rather than working with the industry and challenging it to keep food safe."


The new regulations, to be phased in by the USDA over the next several months, will push meat packing plants to institute new safeguards at all stages of production, including requirements that slaughterhouses run scientific tests for E. coli and salmonella and that all meat facilities improve sanitation procedures.

The industry helped create the new standards, although some new programs will result in substantial costs.

The American Meat Institute, which represents packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products, issued a written statement Saturday welcoming the new guidelines, but with a word of caution.

American Meat Institute quote

The AMI statement stressed that consumers must still follow safe handling and cooking instructions found on package labels.

Clinton stressed that the guidelines would be flexible, tailored for each plant's needs.

"They protect the public without tangling business in red tape," he said.

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