Dole Proposal Deadly, Groups Say Measure Would Limit Efforts To Prevent E. Coli Infections

A coalition of 200 groups asked Congress on Tuesday to reject a bill restricting the government’s regulatory authority, saying it would lead to more food-poisoning illnesses and deaths.

The bill, proposed by Senate majority leader and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole of Kansas, could block the Clinton administration’s efforts to upgrade meat inspection practices, said Citizens for Sensible Safeguards.

At a news conference, coalition members said they were particularly concerned about poisonings caused by E. coli O157:H7, a lethal bacteria that killed four children who ate food from a Seattle fast-food restaurant in 1993.

E. coli causes 20,000 illnesses and 500 deaths annually, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, director of food safety for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a coalition member.

“Food-borne illness costs consumers their money, their health and sometimes their lives,” DeWaal said. “Yet, under Senator Dole’s bill … implementation of Clinton administration proposals to modernize meat, poultry and seafood safety will be postponed.”

Dole’s bill - which could go to the Senate floor as early as next week - would require regulatory agencies to justify many new regulations through science and cost-benefit analyses.

Major regulations would be analyzed to make sure their benefits outweigh their costs. Business would have the ability to challenge rules that don’t meet the new requirements.

The bill also would expand Congress’s oversight powers, giving lawmakers a chance to review new regulations before they go into effect and weed out existing ones that cost too much.

“Senator Dole seems to be saying that if needed consumer protections are too expensive for the industry, we should just let people get sick and die,” DeWaal said.

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