U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, the first New York senator to sit on the Senate Agriculture Committee in nearly 40 years, has a comprehensive plan to overhaul the nation's food safety laws by improving inspection, recall response, and public education.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 87 million Americans are sickened annually by contaminated food. 371,000 are hospitalized with food-borne illness, and 5,700 die from food-related disease.
Gillibrand's effort to improve food safety standards entails consolidation of 15 food safety agencies into a single independent unit, in the interests of stopping the spread of foodborne illness by expediting recalls when problems are identified. "The Safe Food Act of 2015 would take every food safety responsibility from the various federal agencies and departments and consolidate them into one, streamlined, efficient national food safety agency. If we can pass this bill, we would be making the most important change to our food safety system since Upton Sinclair wrote 'The Jungle' and Teddy Roosevelt signed the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906."
Jennifer Stack is an associate professor at the Culinary Institute of America. She leads classes on food safety and nutrition, and assures us food-preparers-in-training are taught to properly handle ingredients, focusing on helping students address the challenges of preparing safe food: "Challenges of new technologies, new pathogens that are more virulent than they were in the past. Changes in our food supply and trends, making sure they know the most basic information, how to properly handle foods that require time and temperature control for safety, what are techniques for safe food preparation, how do you store food, reheat it, how do you clean and sanitize equipment in your work area. We're addressing not only the day to day working knowledge that they need to know to be able to produce safe food, but we're also training them how to think on a more critical scale about what are the challenges to serving safe food in the future."
Gillibrand is planning to introduce a second bill before the new Congress: "The Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act. This legislation would help us solve the problems of how to quickly and clearly notify consumers when meats and poultry items are unsafe and need to be recalled. As it stands now, when 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. As a result, it becomes a struggle to inform consumers the food they bought is not safe to eat."
- READ Senator Gillibrand's full report on food safety.
The bill would impart mandatory recall authority upon the USDA, to ensure there would never be any delay in grocery stores pulling bad food from the shelves.