U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who introduced legislation earlier this year to bolster food safety standards, has now unveiled a bill that would improve the recall process for meat and poultry products.
The measure, the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act, would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture authority to request a voluntary recall of contaminated meat, poultry and some egg products. If a distributor, importer, manufacturer or retailer refuses to comply with the request, the agency’s Food Safety and Inspection Service may issue a mandatory recall.
The bill would also encourage retailers to use shopper reward cards that monitor purchases to inform customers who may have purchased recalled meat and poultry products. And it calls for the creation of a one-page recall summary notice, which would be posted at cash registers or on shelves in stores that sold a recalled product.
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that the current food safety system is “failing to protect Americans.”
“Poultry and meat known to be contaminated should never end up in market fridges and freezes or our kitchens,” she said. “The USDA must have the authority to recall products that test positive for contaminants, and consumers need to know when food has been recalled.”
Gillibrand’s announcement comes one day after Frontline, a PBS program, aired its report on the dangers posed by salmonella. According to the investigation, the bacteria is found in one of four pieces of raw chicken.
A Consumer Reports study cited by Gillibrand’s office found one-third of chicken breast contaminated with salmonella carry a drug-resistant strain of the bacteria.
Bill Marler, a foodborne illness attorney, said all bacteria and viruses that cause illness should receive equal attention.
“They should be banned from both imports and from food produced in the U.S.,” Marler said. “Banning these bugs from our food supply would save both consumers and the food industry billions of dollars in medical and recall costs.”
According to Gillibrand’s office, approximately 3 million New York residents and one in six Americans contract a foodborne illness each year.