Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill Monday that would set more specific guidelines for disseminating food recall information to consumers and health care providers, and it appears Democratic leaders have agreed to advance part of the proposal as part of the pending food safety bill.

Gillibrand’s proposal, the Consumer Recall Notification Act, would require notices be posted on grocery store shelves where recalled foods are sold and and sent directly to grocery store members and “loyalty card” users.

The plan would also mandate that Class I recall information be distributed to health workers–recalls are deemed “Class I” if there is a potential for serious injury or death.

According to a spokesperson for Gillibrand’s office, the Senator expects portions of her proposal, including the provision requiring recall notification for health care workers on the ground, will be added in an amendment to the pending FDA food safety bill.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) last March, was unanimously voted out of committee in November and is expected to come to the Senate floor for a vote in the coming weeks. The legislation would increase inspections, give the agency mandatory recall authority, and require food facilities to have food safety plans.

Gillibrand focuses on recall notification

Sen. Gillibrand’s proposal focuses more specifically on mandating the flow of recall information to state and local governments as well as grocery stores and even directly to consumers.

“In America, in 2010, it is unconscionable that we don’t have an effective way to communicate food-borne illness outbreaks to consumers and health departments,” Gillibrand said in a statement Monday.

“It’s spreading too many diseases and costing too many lives. We need to do a better job of making sure every New Yorker knows when food items are being recalled. My legislation improves recalls and public education so parents get the information they need to keep their families safe.”

Gillibrand’s statement points out that approximately 5 million people in the state of New York become ill from foodborne illness annually.

“We need to make sure familes can get access to [recall] information,” says Gillibrand in a video discussing her food safety priorities on her website. “One thing I think would make a difference is making sure when there is a recall that they notify people in their grocery store.”

“Otherwise you might never know if you don’t check a website, how many people check a website to see what kind of recalls there are this week?”

According to Gillibrand, her bill would do the following:

Notify Consumers


that track customer purchases through customer loyalty cards or

membership cards must use that information to notify customers when

they have purchased a recalled product.  Stores that do not notify

customers of Class I recalls will be subject to a $100 penalty per


Distribute Information to Restaurants and Food Retailers


the have distributed foods subject to a Class I recall would be

required to notify stores and restaurants within 24 hours of the public

announcement of the recall.  The FDA will also publish a list on the

Internet of all stores and restaurants that received contaminated

produce.  Facilities that do not notify stores and restaurants will be

subject to a $1,000 penalty per missed notification.  The stores that

received products must then post a notice on the shelf unit or freezer

case where the contaminated product was sold so that consumers are

aware that they might have previously purchased a recalled product and

return to their homes and dispose of those products.

Distribute Information to Health Workers


FDA shall improve communication between States and local health

departments when there is a Class I recall by distributing advisories

when there is a Class I recall to States, local health departments, and

frontline health professionals, such as emergency departments and

pediatricians.  The information distributed will include info about

symptoms to look out for and test for in order to diagnose foodborne


Sen. Gillibrand has taken an increased interest

in advocating for modernizing food safety laws. In October, she

introduced the E. coli Eradication Act, a bill that would require all

ground beef processing plants to test beef products for E. coli before