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Clinton adds food-safety focus to platform

WASHINGTON Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in an apparent campaign first, has disclosed what steps she would take to promote food safety if she is elected to the White House in November.

Clinton added the plank to her platform following the recall on Sunday of 143 million pounds of beef by Chino, Calif.-based Hallmark Meat Packing Co. and an affiliated company, Westland Meat Co. The action is the biggest beef recall in U.S. history.

The senator from New York promised to increase the food-safety budget of the U.S. Department of Agriculture by 50 percent “over time” to about $1.5 billion per year. The former first lady also pledged to push for a single “Food Safety Administration,” where the efforts of the USDA and the federal government’s other principal food-safety watchdog, the Food & Drug Administration, could be combined and coordinated. Currently, the two bodies act independently of one another, leading to “overlap, gaps and waste,” according to a statement put out by Clinton’s campaign team.

“At times, our system is downright bizarre,” the statement said. “Hillary believes that the current regulatory system is broken and that we can only meet the challenges we face through a single agency.”

Clinton also promised to give the USDA and the FDA the authority to mandate recalls. At present, the agencies can only issue warnings or advisories and encourage the sources of a suspected food-safety risk to recall the products voluntarily.

Clinton is vying for the presidential nomination with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama. The winner of the Democratic nod is expected to face Arizona Sen. John McCain in the general election.

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