The U.S. Senate last week unanimously passed by a voice vote the Food Safety Accountability Act of 2011. The bill, S. 216, would increase criminal penalties for any individual or corporation that knowingly or intentionally defrauds or misleads American consumers by distributing mislabeled or contaminated food products.
Under current laws, "knowing" or "intentional" violators of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act may receive up to three years in prison. The new bill, however, would institute fines and allow prosecutors to seek prison terms of up to 10 years.
Along with increased penalties, the bill would mandate a higher standard of evidence. In addition to demonstrating that offenders knowingly and intentionally committed a violation, prosecutors would be required to prove that violators acted "with conscious or reckless disregard of a risk of death or serious bodily injury."
"Food safety received considerable attention last year, and I was pleased that Congress finally passed comprehensive food safety reforms," said Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill's sponsor. "But our work is not done."
The bill now will go to the House of Representatives for consideration.
For more information, contact Ruth Saunders, IDFA vice president of policy and legislative affairs, at email@example.com or (202) 220-3553.