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New Report Documents How “Fast Tracked” Trade Agreements Have Increased U.S. Imports of Contaminated Food

For Immediate Release:
September 24, 1997

New Report Documents How “Fast Tracked” Trade Agreements Have Increased
U.S. Imports of Contaminated Food

Fast Track to Unsafe Food RevealsHow NAFTA Undermines U.S. Food Safety

Washington D.C….Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch released a new report today documenting the damage “fast tracked” trade agreements have wreaked on U.S. food safety. NAFTA’s Broken Promises: Fast Track to Unsafe Food reveals how trade agreements like NAFTA have resulted in a dramatic increase of dangerous food being imported into the United States. The rules of these agreements have also greatly restricted the United States’ ability to protect the public from unsafe food.

“This report documents how bad trade agreements like NAFTA have damaging effects on our everyday lives — including the food we feed our families,” said Lori Wallach, Director, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “Not everyone has lost a job or has seen their wages fall because of NAFTA, but everyone eats,” she said.

“Fast track will only exacerbate the damage which trade agreements like NAFTA are currently inflicting on the U.S. food supply,” said Wallach. The Clinton Administration’s fast track proposal would put new affirmative limits on the President’s ability to deal with food safety issues in trade.

The comprehensive report analyzes government data and medical and academic sources to document how:

Imported food is more than three times more likely to be contaminated with illegal pesticide residues than U.S.-grown food, according to new analysis of FDA data;

While U.S. food imports have skyrocketed, U.S. inspections of imported food have declined significantly;

Imports of Mexican crops documented by the U.S. government to be at a high risk of pesticide contamination have dramatically increased under NAFTA, while inspection has decreased;

The enormous increase in imports from Mexico and Canada under NAFTA has overwhelmed U.S. border inspectors;

Approximately 74 U.S. import inspectors are responsible for inspecting nearly 2.4 billion pounds of imported meat and poultry;

Foodborne illness is on the rise globally and in the United States due in part to the “globalization” of the food supply;

The process whereby the U.S. recognizes other nations’ food inspection systems as “equivalent” has increased imports of contaminated meat and poultry under NAFTA and undermined federal efforts to strengthen the oversight of meat and poultry.

Recent outbreaks of disease involving imported raspberries and strawberries have forced the issue of U.S. food safety into the debate over fast track and NAFTA expansion. “NAFTA, fast track and other trade policies are now directly undermining consumer protection — such as food safety. That is why consumer, food safety and health groups oppose the fast track to more of these trade disasters,” said Joan Claybrook, President of Public Citizen.

The Public Citizen report is published simultaneously with a bipartisan letter to President Clinton signed by more than 75 Members of the House of Representatives urging President Clinton to renegotiate provisions in NAFTA relating to food safety; ensure that fast track include food safety provisions; improve border inspection; and begin a country of labeling program for all imported food.