March 16, 2010

Gillibrand Introduces Legislation To Quickly, Effectively Communicate Food Recalls To Consumers, Health Workers

Contaminated Food Kills 5,700 Americans Each Year - Nation’s Food Safety Laws Have Not Been Overhauled In A Century

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the first New York senator to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, today introduced new legislation that will overhaul the way food recall notifications are distributed. Senator Gillibrand’s Consumer Recall Notification Act would make sure consumers and health workers know when food recalls are made and would require that notices are posted on shelves at food retailers where recalled foods are sold, require that recall notices are sent directly to grocery store members and “loyalty card” users, and ensure that Class I recall information is distributed to health workers.

“In America, in 2010, it is unconscionable that we don’t have an effective way to communicate food-borne illness outbreaks to consumers and health departments,” Senator Gillibrand said. “It’s spreading too many diseases and costing too many lives. We need to do a better job of making sure every New Yorker knows when food items are being recalled. My legislation improves recalls and public education so parents get the information they need to keep their families safe.”

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 ­would make sure consumers and health workers know when recalls have been issued to avoid tainted foods.

Notify Consumers

Stores that track customer purchases through customer loyalty cards or membership cards must use that information to notify customers when they have purchased a recalled product.  Stores that do not notify customers of Class I recalls will be subject to a $100 penalty per customer. 

Distribute Information to Restaurants and Food Retailers

Facilities the have distributed foods subject to a Class I recall would be required to notify stores and restaurants within 24 hours of the public announcement of the recall.  The FDA will also publish a list on the Internet of all stores and restaurants that received contaminated produces.  Facilities that do not notify stores and restaurants will be subject to a $1,000 penalty per missed notification.  The stores that received products must then post a notice on the shelf unit or freezer case where the contaminated product was sold so that consumers are aware that they might have previously purchased a recalled product and return to their homes and dispose of those products. 


Distribute Information to Health Workers
The FDA shall improve communication between States and local health departments when there is a Class I recall by distributing advisories when there is a Class I recall to States, local health departments and frontline health professionals, such as emergency departments and pediatricians.  The information distributed will include info about symptoms to look out for and test for in order to diagnose food-borne illness. 

As the first New Yorker to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, Senator Gillibrand is committed to setting new safety standards for the food we eat to keep all New Yorkers safe and healthy.