While it's not the first time the idea has been proposed, Congress again plans to introduce a bill that would give the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to remove unsafe eggs, meat and poultry products from grocery store shelves, the Consumerist reported.
Just a year ago, Congress saw a bill start and fall apart that would have given the federal agency the authority to control food recalls. However, Congress was able to piece back together the bill and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D- N.Y., is leading the new legislation to give federal regulators the authority to recall contaminated products, the source reported.
The senator's proposal is geared toward creating safer national food standards after numerous food item recalls in 2014 that caused several instances of sickness from bacteria-infected products. According to Food Safety News, the new bill is called the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act and it would allow the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) total authority over recalls.
"As it stands now, if foods like ground beef and sliced turkey are found to be unsafe, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lacks the authority to issue a mandatory recall," said Gillibrand, according to the source. "As a result, it becomes a struggle to inform consumers the food they bought is not safe to eat."
New Yorkers suffering from unsafe food items
Gillibrand added that too many New York residents are harmed by infected products, which are causing sickness and death in products many consumers believe are safe, the Food Poison Journal reported. The senator said consumers have the right to walk into any grocery store and know the products they buy for themselves or their family will be safe and edible.
"We need to detect food borne illness and stop it before it spreads rather than scramble to respond after New Yorkers have already fallen ill," said Gillibrand, according to the source. "My plan would give New York families more peace of mind when they sit down at the kitchen table by reducing bureaucracy and consolidating the 15 federal agencies that oversee food safety under one roof."
Increasing customer awareness in stores
While the main concern of the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act is to remove unsafe products from grocery shelves faster, the proposal also wants to increase customer notification so consumers are alerted to unsafe products more quickly, Food Poison Journal reported.
Not only would it require quicker notification times, but Sen. Gillibrand wants to perform more inspections in food processing facilities and to enforce more labeling and sanitary regulations in these settings, the source stated.
Gillibrand said the newest 2015 plan would be one of the biggest food safety updates since the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906, which was signed by President Teddy Roosevelt after the release of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle", Food Safety News reported.
With regulations likely increasing for food processing facilities, plant operators should consider investing in new and sustainable equipment such as shell and tube heat exchangers to reduce recalls and bacteria growth with correct heat treatment.