January 24, 2018

Legislation Would Strengthen USDA’s Food Safety Enforcement

A bill introduced in Congress today would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) to recall any meat, poultry, or egg product contaminated by pathogens resistant to two or more antibiotics. The bill is meant to address the ambiguity in the current law, say Congresswomen Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY),  who introduced the bill.

Salmonella“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 Representatives DeLauro and Slaughter. “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 their announcement of the bill, the Congresswomen cited the Salmonella outbreak linked to Foster Farms chicken. The outbreak, which has sickened about 600 people, hospitalizing 40 percent of them, involves antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella Heidelberg. “Despite the length and severity of the outbreak, none of the company’s products have been recalled by the USDA because of the legal ambiguity. In the wake of the outbreak, Representatives DeLauro and Slaughter met with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), where they were told FSIS does not believe they have the authority to declare Salmonella an adulterant,” according to the announcement.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest believes the USDA does have the ability to act, says the group’s food safety director Caroline Smith DeWaal. “But since the agency claims it doesn’t have that authority, the legislation introduced today would remove any shadow of a doubt, and keep these particularly dangerous strains of bacteria out of the food supply.”

Chris Waldrop, director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America,  pointed out that teh USDA will act if E. coli is involved.  “When E. coli O157:H7 sickened hundreds of consumers in the 1990s, USDA decided that we cannot tolerate E. coli in ground beef. Yet we are still allowing Salmonella in chicken, even after an outbreak that has sickened over 600 people. This legislation would change that and provide USDA with clear authority to protect consumers from contaminated food.”

 

Comments

  1. Fat chance of this ever getting anywhere in the dysfunctional House. It will be reflexively rejected because (1) it’s introduced by Democrats, and (2) TYRANNY!!1!

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