Sen. Leahy seeks criminal penalties for food safety violations

"Current statutes do not provide sufficient criminal sanctions for those who violate our food safety laws with the intent to mislead or defraud," Leahy said in a statement introducing his bill. "Doing so is already illegal, but it is merely a misdemeanor right now, and the Sentencing Commission has found that it generally does not result in jail time."

Leahy added that the fines and recalls that can be applied to knowing violators "fall short in protecting the public from harmful products," and that some companies "view such fines or recalls as merely the cost of doing business."

A similar bill was introduced last year and supported unanimously by Leahy's committee, but was seen as overly broad by some Republican senators. However, Leahy said he has worked through some of these issues and hopes the Senate can consider his bill again this year.