Bill to increase U.S. food safety standards introduced

Sept. 13, 2013 at 1:04 AM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced a bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase food safety testing and to update standards.

CSPI senior food-safety attorney David Plunkett said the bill requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service to maintain adequate staffing and increase testing at the facilities that produce beef, pork, and poultry products. In addition, the bill requires an update the agency's adulteration standards to protect against antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In addition to improving safety at U.S. plants, the bill would require FSIS to audit foreign food safety systems -- at least annually.

"Consumers need to know that food safety inspectors have the tools they need to protect the public from serious illnesses. The Safe Meat and Poultry Act would give inspectors the authority and the resources they need to do their job," Plunkett said in a statement.

"Speeding up inspection makes USDA look like an agency that is more concerned about boosting corporate profits than protecting consumers from foodborne diseases -- this legislation would refocus the agency on its primary business of protecting consumers."

The bill also gives the undersecretary of food safety the authority to recall food. Currently, the USDA can only ask companies voluntarily to recall meat and poultry products or totally shut plants down.

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