Gillibrand announces push for stronger food safety regulations

Staff Reports Posted 5 February 2015 at 12:00 am

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, 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. Gillibrand said an estimated 3 million New Yorkers get sick from the food they eat each year

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.

Sen. Gillibrand

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.

“Too many New Yorkers are getting sick and even dying from food they trusted was safe,” Gillibrand said. “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.”

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.

“We need to detect foodborne illness and stop it before it spreads rather than scramble to respond after New Yorkers have already fallen ill,” Gillibrand said. “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,” Gillibrand said. “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.”