November 30, 2010

Gillibrand Announces Senate Passage Of Food Safety Bill – Includes Gillibrand Recall Alert Measure

Gillibrand Legislation Requires Recall Notices Posted at Grocery Store Shelves, Cash Registers Where Contaminated Food Was Sold

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced U.S. Senate passage of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act -- the first major, comprehensive update to America’s food safety laws in over a century. The legislation includes a key measure authored and introduced by Senator Gillibrand that requires grocery stores and food distributers to effectively and proactively alert consumers when food recalls occur.

“We must make it easier for consumers to know exactly which foods have been recalled. Today, we’re one step closer to bringing our food safety laws into the 21st century,” Senator Gillibrand said. “The current notification system is completely inadequate, spreading too many diseases and actually costing lives as a result. This legislation improves recalls and public education so parents get the information they need to keep contaminated food off our tables and away from our families.”


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year an estimated 87 million Americans are sickened by contaminated food, 371,000 are hospitalized with food-borne illness, and 5,700 die from food-related disease.  While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made some progress improving food safety regulations, the nation’s food safety laws have not been significantly overhauled in more than a century, according to the Congressional Research Service. Across New York State, approximately 5 million people are afflicted with a food-borne illness each year.

Senator Gillibrand’s Consumer Recall Notification Act

Senator Gillibrand’s legislation requires the FDA to provide a one-page summary of the recall information to grocery stores and require grocery stores to either display that one-page summary in a prominent location, including at the register or on the shelf, or provide customers with a notification through the use of loyalty card information or coupon technology within 24 hours of the FDA releasing the information.  This will proactively give customers information so that they can check their pantry or freezer and dispose of recalled products.

Failure to distribute information will result in a violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.  For minor offenses fines are less than $1000 or less than 1 year in prison.  For major offenses involved the intent to defraud or mislead, the penalty is a fine up to $10,000 and prison for up to 3 years. 

Under Senator Gillibrand’s provision, the FDA must also improve communication of all Class I recalls between the CDC, States and local health departments by distributing advisories to all state and local health departments along with frontline health professionals, such as emergency departments and pediatricians.  The information distributed will include information about symptoms to look out for and test for in order to diagnose food-borne illness.