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For Immediate
May 6, 1999

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  Consumer Group Asks FDA/USDA to Comply with Transatlantic Recommendations
Agencies Criticized at Transatlantic Meeting of Consumer Groups

   WASHINGTON - The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has asked Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Jane Henney what steps their agencies will take to implement recommendations regarding food safety and nutrition approved by the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD).

   CSPI and other leading consumer organizations from the U.S. and the European Union (EU) recently met in Brussels, Belgium, to make recommendations to the U.S. and EU governments. The meeting of about 60 consumer leaders from 16 countries agreed on 20 resolutions that could affect critical trade issues. The resolutions were approved unanimously by the consumer groups on April 24, 1999.

   The TACD was established in 1998 to provide consumer input into U.S.- EU trade relations in various areas, including food and agriculture policy, and to counterbalance the work of the Transatlantic Business Dialogue. That latter effort has provided a forum for businesses from both sides of the Atlantic to facilitate trade by agreeing upon unified calls for government deregulation and then lobbying government officials.

   “Consumers in the United States and Europe have joined together to demand that food safety and food labeling policies be harmonized in an upward, not downward, fashion,” stated Bruce Silverglade, CSPI’s director of legal affairs and co-chair of the Dialogue’s Food Standards Committee. “We are urging that the EU adopt mandatory nutrition labeling requirements like the U.S. did in 1994 and that the U.S. follow the recent example of the EU and ban the routine use of antibiotics to fatten livestock. Regulatory policies should be harmonized to facilitate trade, but they must be harmonized in a manner that best protects consumers,” he said.

   The TACD’s resolutions include urging the United States and the European Union:

  • to ban the use of antibiotics in animal and food production except where disease has been identified in a particular animal or group of animals;
  • to take specific steps to reduce food-borne illnesses caused by pathogen contamination of food products and to institute a coherent, hazard-based inspection program that covers food production from farm to table;
  • to guarantee that consumers can fully participate in decisions involving food safety, including the decision by the USDA and the FDA on whether a foreign inspection system provides a level of safety "equivalent" to that required for domestically produced food;
  • to require that dietary supplement ingredients be subjected to a government safety and efficacy review which shall include the establishment of safe upper limits;
  • to support amendments to the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures that will make it easier for the United States and the European Union to protect their citizens from unsafe imported food without provoking a trade war; and
  • to support mandatory nutrition labeling requirements at the Codex Alimentarius Commission (a joint United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization that sets international standards for food safety).
   Other resolutions called for stricter regulation of genetically engineered foods, application of the precautionary principle in risk assessment, and restrictions on the use of bovine somatotropin (BST). Copies of the nine TACD resolutions dealing with food and CSPI’s letters to Secretary Glickman and Commissioner Henney are available upon request.