Bill Aims to Reform USDA Oversight

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., has introduced legislation designed to reform food safety oversight within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The bill, S. 1529, widens the definition of adulterated meat, poultry, and egg products, and imposes criminal penalties on food manufacturers who knowingly sell contaminated food.

“Our hope is that this bill will be the Food Safety Modernization Act on the USDA side,” said Bethany Lesser, Gillibrand’s director of communications.

“Recent events demonstrate that the food safety system administered by the [USDA] Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) needs modernizing to fully control hazards in regulated food, and these events have adversely affected consumer confidence,” says the bill, which proposes to focus FSIS’ attention on emerging pathogens and build an integrated, interagency approach to food safety between the USDA and the FDA.

Lesser acknowledged that, after the drawn-out effort needed to pass the Food Safety Modernization Act, a new bill aimed at the USDA might face a Congress suffering from food safety fatigue. “With the farm bill moving, the hope is that we can at least incorporate some of this legislation into it, if we can’t pass the legislation on its own,” she said.

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