Proposed legislation gets tough on food-safety violators

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON – Tough, new legislation was introduced on Sept. 13 by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) “to hold violators of food-safety standards accountable for their crimes.” The legislation comes on the heels of a bill introduced by Leahy before the August recess, and will strengthen criminal penalties for food-safety violators, he said.

His proposed legislation, called the Food Safety Accountability Act, creates a new criminal offense in the criminal code for any person or corporation that knowingly distributes tainted food products. It also establishes fines and prison sentences for those convicted of such a crime. Mr. Leahy is renewing the push for the legislation following a recent national recall of eggs linked to hundreds of cases of salmonella poisoning across the country. The Justice Department (D.O.J.) and the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) have launched a criminal investigation into the distribution of the tainted eggs.

“The American people should be confident that the food they buy for their families is safe,” Leahy said. “The Food Safety Accountability Act will hold criminals who poison our food supply accountable for their crimes. The fines and recalls that usually result from criminal violations under current law fall short in protecting the public from harmful products. Too often, those who are willing to endanger our children in pursuit of profits view such fines or recalls as just the cost of doing business. This common-sense bill increases the sentences that prosecutors can seek for people who knowingly violate our food-safety laws.”

In July, legislation Leahy introduced was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (H.E.L.P.) Committee. The bill introduced Sept. 13 will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Leahy chairs the panel, and will include the legislation on the agenda for a Committee business meeting scheduled for Sept. 16.

“In order to protect the public, we need to make sure that those who knowingly poison the food supply will go to jail,” Leahy said. “When the Senate considers broader food-safety legislation, I want to ensure that this bill has moved through the Committee mark up process. That is the goal of introducing this legislation today. I hope Senators on both sides of the aisle will support this bill.”

The Food Safety Accountability Act will allow prosecutors to seek prison sentences of up to 10 years for people who knowingly place contaminated food products into the nation’s food supply.
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