Certain food safety violations would be felonies, rather than misdemeanor offenses, under a bill approved yesterday by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

The legislation, S. 3767 or the Food Safety Accountability Act, was introduced just weeks ago by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the committee.  If passed, the bill would make it a crime for anyone to knowingly introduce or deliver tainted food into interstate commerce, or to contaminate or mislabel any food in the U.S. food- supply chain.

At present, the consequences of such violations do not typically result in jail time.  Leahy has said fines and recalls do not seem to be sufficient deterrent to those who produce or supply contaminated food.

Under the proposed law, individuals who flout food safety regulations could face fines or prison sentences of up to 10 years.

The bill cleared the judiciary committee unanimously.