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Espy Apologizes for Times Comment

August 18, 1994| From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, in an address broadcast to all department employees last Friday, apologized for remarks made in a recent Los Angeles Times interview.

He was quoted (in a Food Section story, "Mike Espy Fights Back," Aug. 11) as being sharply critical of the Food Safety and Inspection Service officials for their reaction to a deadly food poisoning outbreak in January, 1993.

"I want to apologize to any FSIS employee who was offended by my recent comments . . . ," Espy said. "I did not intend to harm the morale within the FSIS, and if I have, I apologize."

But Espy maintained that a "handful" of top employees were indifferent to the loss of life caused by the outbreak linked to hamburgers tainted with E. coli O157:H7 .

He said those people considered that it was "inevitable and expected" that a certain number of people would die each year from food poisoning.

Espy had told The Los Angeles Times: "I got the impression that they knew about these deaths and they weren't excited. They considered the deaths acceptable."

The remark provoked angry letters to President Clinton from several professional groups.

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