WASHINGTON — The food industry, which now decides when to recall tainted products, objected Saturday to President Clinton's push for government authority to force recalls of unsafe meat and poultry.
"Congress should grant [the Agriculture Department] the authority to impose civil penalties and to order mandatory recalls of unsafe meat and poultry," Clinton said in his weekly radio address.
"Government mandates may score political points, but they won't make the system safer," said Gene Grabowski, a spokesman for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, a trade association of brand-name food companies.
Grabowski said that whenever there have been beef recalls companies move more rapidly than the government ever could to address problems because they want to maintain "consumer trust."
Clinton also said that he is ordering the Customs Service and the Food and Drug Administration to "rigorously enforce and expand our policy of destroying imported food that poses a serious health threat rather than risk letting it reach our grocery stores or the global market."
But, he said, "there's no evidence that these fruits and vegetables are less safe than those grown here in the United States."