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Leahy Introduces Food Safety Accountability Bill

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bill Monday aimed at holding violators of food safety standards “accountable for their crimes.”

The legislation, dubbed the Food Safety Accountability Act, follows a measure Leahy introduced before August recess that would strengthen criminal penalties for food safety violators.

The bill would create a new criminal offense in the criminal code for “any individual or corporation that knowingly distributes tainted food products.” It would also establish fines and prison sentences for those convicted.

“Leahy is renewing the push for the legislation following a recent national recall of eggs linked to hundreds of cases of salmonella poisoning across the country,” according to statement released by his office. “The Justice Department and the Food and Drug Administration have launched a criminal investigation into the distribution of the tainted eggs.”

“The American people should be confident that the food they buy for their families is safe,” said Leahy.  “The Food Safety Accountability Act will hold criminals who poison our food supply accountable for their crimes.  The fines and recalls that usually result from criminal violations under current law fall short in protecting the public from harmful products.  Too often, those who are willing to endanger our children in pursuit of profits view such fines or recalls as just the cost of doing business.  This common sense bill increases the sentences that prosecutors can seek for people who knowingly violate our food safety laws.”

The legislation Leahy introduced over the summer was referred to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The bill introduced Monday will be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs. According to Leahy’s office, the bill will be included on the agenda for a Committee business meeting scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 16.

“In order to protect the public, we need to make sure that those who knowingly poison the food supply will go to jail,” said Leahy.  “When the Senate considers broader food safety legislation, I want to ensure that this bill has moved through the Committee mark up process.  That is the goal of introducing this legislation today.  I hope Senators on both sides of the aisle will support this bill.”

The new legislation would allow prosecutors to seek prison sentences of up to 10 years for people who knowingly place contaminated food products into the nation’s food supply.  The text of the legislation is available online here.

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