Senator Gillibrand of New  York has unveiled new legislation, entitled the "E. coli Eradication Act" according to this report from the North Country Gazette.  The legislation is aimed at eliminating E. coli O157:H7 from the U.S. food system.  In previous years, outbreaks linked to lettuce, spinach, ground beef and even cookie dough have called the safety of U.S. food into question.  Senator Gillibrand is a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee.  Gillibrand is quoted as saying:

“In America, in 2009, it is unconscionable that food is still going straight to our kitchens, school cafeterias and restaurants without being properly tested to ensure its safety. It’s spreading too many diseases and costing too many lives. We need to do a better job of catching contaminated food before it ever comes close to a kitchen table. My plan addresses the gaps in the inspection process and improves recalls and public education, so parents have the information to keep their families safe.”

Key aspects of the proposed legislation include:

  • Improve Testing of Ground Beef, including mandatory testing for E. coli O157:H7.
  • Improve Regulation Of All Other Food
  • Focus on Prevention, requiring all facilities to establish preventive plans to address hazards upfront, prevent adulteration, and give the FDA access to all of these plans and procedures.
  • Expand Access to Records, giving the FDA access to the records of all food processing facilities.
  • Establish Oversight of High Quality Testing Laboratories, by granting the FDA authority to check the credibility of the laboratories testing the safety of food, requiring the labs to report all of their findings to the FDA, and certify that foreign food facilities comply with U.S. food safety standards.
  • Improve Detection, by increasing inspections at all food facilities, including annual inspections of high-risk facilities, and inspections of all facilities once every four years.
  • Enhance U.S. Food Defense Capabilities by helping food companies protect their products from intentional contamination, and commence a national strategy to protect our food supply from terrorist threats, and rapidly respond to food emergencies.
  • Increase FDA Resources, increasing federal investments to give the FDA all the resources it needs to implement comprehensive food safety improvements.
  • Improve Recall Response, especially for school lunches.   Make recalls of contaminated food mandatory.
  • Improve Public Education