Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced a bill late last week aimed at reforming food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

meat-poultry-pork406.jpgThe 67-page bill, introduced Thursday in the U.S. Senate with no cosponsors, widens the definition of ‘adulterated’ meat, poultry, and egg products and adds criminal penalties for food manufacturers that knowingly introduce contaminated food into commerce.

“Recent events demonstrate that the food safety system administered by the [USDA] Food Safety and Inspection Service needs modernizing to fully control hazards in regulated food; and these events have adversely affected consumer confidence,” reads the bill.

The legislation also points to emerging pathogens–like antibiotic-resistant Salmonella and Shiga toxin-producing serotypes of E. coli–as a reality that places an increasing number of people at “high risk for foodborne illness.”

“Improving federal oversight of food safety requires a modern food safety mandate and clear authorities to effectively protect the public from foodborne diseases associated with the products that the Food Safety and Inspection Service regulates.”

The bill seeks to:

(1) Establish an effective, preventative food safety system administered by FSIS by focusing new attention on emerging pathogens, building an integrated, systemwide approach to food safety with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and providing “integrated food safety research capability,” by partnering with academic institutions and other science entities.

(2) Modernize and strengthen the federal food safety system to ensure more effective application and efficient management of the laws for the protection and improvement of public health.

(3) Establish that food establishments have responsibility to ensure that all stages of production, processing, and distribution of the products of the food establishments, or under the control of the food establishments, satisfy the requirements of the bill.

Specifically, Gillibrand’s bill seeks to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act so that the term ‘adulterated’ includes emerging pathogens “associated with actual or potential human illnesses or death, including at minimum pathogens such as antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella or enterohemorrhagic (EHEC) Shiga toxin-producing serotypes of E. coli.”

S. 1529, which was referred to the Senate Agriculture Committee, can be viewed here