WASHINGTON – US Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced legislation aimed at keeping contaminated meat, poultry and eggs out of the food chain. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is a co-sponsor of the bill.

The Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act would require the US Dept. of Agriculture to recall any meat, poultry or egg product contaminated by foodborne pathogens linked to serious illness or death or that are resistant to two or more "critically important antibiotics in human medicine."

In a joint statement, the legislators referenced theSalmonellaHeidelberg outbreak associated with Livingston, Calif.-based Foster Farms. At the time, USDA said the agency could not legally issue a recall because current law limits its ability to recall meat and poultry. But DeLauro and Slaughter "strenuously object to USDA's interpretation of the law."

“The USDA has failed to recall meat contaminated with antibiotic-resistant pathogens because they do not believe they have the legal authority to do so. This bill would ensure there is no confusion,” said Reps. DeLauro and Slaughter in a statement. “We urge Congress to pass this legislation before more Americans are sickened by contaminated meat, poultry, or egg products. We need federal agencies that will protect public health, not bend to the threats of deep-pocketed food producers seeking to escape regulation.”

In May, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed a total of 574 individuals were infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in 27 states and Puerto Rico since March 1, 2013. Thirty-seven individuals were hospitalized, but not deaths were reported.

CDC noted that the outbreak strains had shown resistance to several commonly prescribed antibiotics, although those antibiotics are not typically used to treatSalmonellaHeidelberg infections or other severeSalmonellainfections.