Food-safety bill clears Senate, still needs House approval

The Senate on Thursday night unanimously adopted a food-safety bill that would strengthen criminal penalties for companies that knowingly sell tainted food products. 

The Food Safety Accountability Act, or S. 216, would increase criminal penalties for individuals or corporations that knowingly distribute misbranded or tainted food products. The legislation, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), would increase the offense for doing so from a misdemeanor to a felony, allowing law enforcement to seek prison sentences of up to 10 years for convictions. 

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The bill will now be considered in the House.

“On behalf of the hundreds of individuals sickened by recent salmonella outbreaks, I urge the House to quickly pass the Food Safety Accountability Act and join the Senate in continuing to improve our food-safety system, Leahy said upon the bill’s passage.

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously reported the same legislation to the Senate for the first time in September, but the Senate did not take it up due to time restrictions. Leahy also was unable to attach the legislation to the larger Food Safety Modernization Act, which President Obama signed into law on Jan. 4. The Judiciary Committee once again reported the bill to the upper chamber in March of this year.