Leahy Urges House Passage Of Food Safety Accountability Act
WASHINGTON (Friday, April 20, 2012) – Following this week’s announcement by the Food and Drug Administration that raw tuna from a California supplier has sickened more than 100 people in 20 states, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is again urging the House of Representatives to consider the Food Safety Accountability Act, a bill that will hold criminals accountable for those who knowingly violate food safety standards and place tainted food products on the market.
The non-controversial Food Safety Accountability Act will increase criminal penalties for any individual or corporation that knowingly endangers American lives by contaminating the food supply by distributing misbranded or tainted food products. The legislation will increase the offense from a misdemeanor to a felony in certain circumstances, establishing fines and giving law enforcement the ability to seek prison sentences of up to 10 years for such offenses.
“Food safety received considerable attention in the last Congress, and I was pleased that we finally passed comprehensive food safety reforms, but our work is not done,” said Leahy. “A provision almost identical to the Food Safety Accountability Act has previously passed the House with strong, bipartisan support. Now that the Senate has unanimously passed this bill, it is long overdue for the House to act.”
The Senate approved the Food Safety Accountability Act in April 2011; the House of Representatives, which approved a similar measure in the last Congress, has yet to act on the legislation.
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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
Floor Statement In Support Of S. 216, The Food Safety Accountability Act
April 19, 2012
One year ago, the Senate unanimously passed the Food Safety Accountability Act. This week, the Food and Drug Administration announced that raw tuna from a California supplier has sickened more than 100 people in 20 states with salmonella poisoning. If enacted, the Food Safety Accountability Act would help stop outbreaks related to food safety. It is time for the House to pass this non-controversial legislation.
The Food Safety Accountability Act promotes more accountability for food suppliers, by increasing the sentences that prosecutors can seek for people who violate our food safety laws in those cases where there is conscious or reckless disregard of a risk of death or serious bodily injury. Current statutes do not provide sufficient criminal sanctions for those who knowingly violate our food safety laws.
Knowingly distributing adulterated food is already illegal, but it is in most cases merely a misdemeanor, and the Sentencing Commission has found that perpetrators generally do not serve jail time. The alternative, fines and recalls, fall short in protecting the public from harmful products. Too often, those who are willing to endanger our American citizens in pursuit of profits view such fines or recalls as merely the cost of doing business.
Salmonella poisoning is all too common and sometimes results from inexcusable, knowing conduct like that carefully targeted by the Food Safety Accountability Act. The company responsible for a salmonella outbreak last summer had a long history of environmental, immigration, labor, and food safety violations. It is clear that fines are not enough to protect the public and effectively deter this unacceptable conduct. We need to make sure that those who knowingly poison the food supply will go to jail. This bill will significantly increase the chances that those who commit serious food safety crimes will face jail time, rather than merely a slap on the wrist.
Food safety received considerable attention in the last Congress, and I was pleased that we finally passed comprehensive food safety reforms, but our work is not done. A provision almost identical to the Food Safety Accountability Act has previously passed the House with strong, bipartisan support. Now that the Senate has unanimously passed this bill, it is long overdue for the House to act.
The American people should be confident that the food they buy for their families is safe. The uncertainty and fear caused by the current salmonella outbreak only reinforces the need to pass the common sense Food Safety Accountability Act. I urge the House to quickly pass the Senate bill and join us in taking this important step toward protecting our food supply.