President Pushes to Get Prepared Foods
for Listeria Bug
May 6, 2000
In today's weekly radio address, President
Clinton announced that he is supporting a
measure to implement requirements of food
manufacturers to test hot dogs, lunch meats
and other prepared foods for the deadly listeria
bug. His goal is to cut in half the number
of listeria-related illnesses by 2005.
Listeria has forced dozens of food recalls
in past years, including a 1998 outbreak
blamed for 21 deaths and more than 100 illnesses
in 22 states.
Listeria contamination has received much
attention in relation to hot dogs and lunch
meat products but the bacteria has also been
responsible for recalls of cheese, smoked
fish, milk and other non-meat foods. It can
cause high fever, nausea, stiff necks and
miscarriages in pregnant women. According
to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta,
the disease, also known as listeriosis, effects
2,500 Americans each year and kills one-fifth
"Millions of Americans get sick from
eating contaminated food each year. A staggering
20 percent of listeria infections result
in death." Clinton said. "It's
rarely the healthy adults who come down with
listeria infections. Instead it's the most
vulnerable among us: infants, the elderly,
pregnant women and those whose immune systems
have been weakened by chemotherapy or AIDS,"
The president said he has ordered the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop
proposed regulations requiring companies
to check for the bacteria in food manufacturing
The regulations, which officials hope
go into effect by the end of the year,
to prevent cross-contamination at processing
plants, and set appropriate standards
ready-to-eat products to ensure they
safe throughout their shelf life.
Clinton also ordered the Department of Health
and Human Services (HHS) to study further
steps, including implementing procedures
to help food processors and retailers avoid
the bacteria that thrive in refrigerated
temperatures, and to work with the USDA on
studying whether enhanced food labeling would
help protect consumers.
The President has given the Department of
Health and Human Services and the USDA 4
months to present a plan which will meet
his goal of 2005.