Washington, DC – As an estimated 3 million New Yorkers get sick from the food they eat each year U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced a new push today to prevent foodborne illness and improve food safety standards. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year approximately 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. According the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, nearly a quarter of all cut-up chicken parts are contaminated by Salmonella and another Consumer Reports study found that one third of all chicken breast with Salmonella carry a drug resistant strain of the disease.
Gillibrand is a pushing a new bill introduced last week, the Safe Food Act of 2015, which would consolidate food safety authorities into a single independent food safety agency called the Food Safety Administration. Under the current system, 15 different federal agencies oversee food safety functions including inspections, enforcement, recalls and restrictions on pathogens like Salmonella and E.coli. According to a Government Accountability Agency study, the fragmented and inefficient system is a high risk to the public’s safety.
The proposed consolidated agency would help prevent foodborne illness by allowing food recalls to happen more quickly once illnesses are confirmed, improving inspections, and enhancing enforcement against unsafe food. The Food Safety Administration would also protect and improve the public’s health by focusing resources to prevent and detect foodborne illness before it spreads rather than responding after New Yorkers have already fallen ill.
“Too many New Yorkers are getting sick and even dying from food they trusted was safe,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “New Yorkers should be able to walk into a grocery store and be confident that the food they are putting on their family’s kitchen table and serving at our schools or in our restaurants is properly inspected and safe to eat. We need to detect foodborne illness and stop it before it spreads rather than scramble to respond after New Yorkers have already fallen ill. My plan would give New York families more peace of mind when they sit down at the kitchen table by reducing bureaucracy and consolidating the 15 federal agencies that oversee food safety under one roof.”
Gillibrand is also proposing new legislation that would require stores to improve customer notification in the event of a food recall. Stores with customer loyalty card programs could use that data to call and email consumers when food they have purchased has been recalled. Gillibrand’s proposed legislation, the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act, would grant authority to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service to require companies to recall dangerous food and notify consumers and local health officials. Gillibrand’s new legislation would also create a 1-page Recall Summary Notice that could be prominently displayed on the store shelf where the recalled food was sold or at the cash register for stores that lack customer loyalty card programs.
“We need to make sure that if dangerous food does end up at the grocery store that it gets recalled, pulled off the shelf and out of freezers faster,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Every time you swipe a loyalty card to save a few cents, the grocery store makes a record of what food you’re bringing home. When a recall happens, stores should use that information to call and email people to tell them to not eat the food they have purchased.”
The Safe Food Act of 2015
Senator Gillibrand introduced the Safe Food Act of 2015 to consolidate food safety inspections, enforcement, and labeling under a single independent food safety agency called the Food Safety Administration (FSA). The FSA would implement existing federal food safety law, including inspections, enforcement, standards-setting, and research.
The bill would also require more regular inspections of slaughterhouses and food processing plants; increase oversight of imported foods; establish enforceable performance standards for contaminants in food; require the tracing of foods to point of origin; and analyze new safety monitoring technology in our food system.
Building on the work of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) that was signed into law on January 4, 2011, the FSA would continue to modernize federal food safety laws to protect and improve public health by:
- Providing authority to require the recall of unsafe food;
· Requiring risk assessments and preventive control plans to reduce adulteration;
· Authorizing enforcement actions to strengthen contaminant performance standards;
· Improving foreign food import inspections; and
- Requiring full food traceability to better identify sources of outbreaks.
Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act
Senator Gillibrand is proposing the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act to improve consumer awareness in the event of a high priority food safety recall of meat, poultry and egg products by:
- Giving USDA mandatory recall authority.
· Encouraging retailers’ use of frequent shopper/shopper reward cards that monitor purchases to notify customers who may have purchased recalled products.
· Creating a 1-page Recall Summary Notice that could be prominently displayed at points of sale in retail outlets that sold a recalled product or on the store shelf where a product was sold.
Gillibrand’s legislation will give the Secretary of Agriculture mandatory recall authority for meat, poultry, and some egg products currently under USDA jurisdiction. Under the proposed bill, the Food Safety and Inspection Service would be granted authority to require companies to recall contaminated food and notify all related persons to cease all activities related to the recalled food. FSIS would have the authority to notify consumers and state and local health officials of an ongoing recall.
Under Gillibrand’s proposal, in the event of food borne illness or the detection of an adulterated or unsafe product, USDA can recommend a voluntary recall of a product to a manufacturer, importer, distributor, or retailer. If the request is refused, the Secretary can issue a mandatory recall and notify affected processors, packers, retail outlets, and the public. USDA will issue a Recall Summary Notice to all retail outlets that sold a recalled product. This Notice would be displayed at all cash registers or at the shelf location where the recalled product was presented for sale. Those retail outlets that use customer card systems to track customer purchases and demographics could call or email each customer that purchased a recalled food product or make available to each customer a targeted coupon with information about the recalled product. Penalties can be assessed for refusal to comply with a recall.