Tough tools on food safety

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Safe and Fair Enforcement and Recall for Meat and Poultry Act, which would boost the enforcement tools available to USDA and the Food and Drug Administration under their food statutes.

The bill would

• authorize large fines by regulatory agencies for violations of the rules;

• make those working in the food system, including farmers, growers, and retail workers, criminally liable for failure to observe and report violations, including labeling errors;

• authorize mandatory recall authority;

• authorize USDA to close down meat and poultry businesses for committing more than one violation of the rules.

According to the National Food Processors Assn., which vigorously opposes the measure, the concepts in the bill have been introduced and rejected by Congress for more than 25 years. NFPA says the provisions are onerous and would not improve food safety.

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