House Dems push new food safety bill

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would receive more authority to recall meat, poultry, and eggs products that are contaminated with pathogens like Salmonella under new legislation introduced Wednesday by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).

The congresswomen introduced the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act, after Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and other USDA officials said they do not have the authority to issue many such recalls.

“The USDA has failed to recall meat contaminated with antibiotic-resistant pathogens, because they do not believe they have the legal authority to do so. This bill would ensure there is no confusion,” DeLauro said.

The USDA has failed to recall Salmonella-infected chicken over the last year, in a case that has sickened more than 600 people and sent many of them to the hospital around the world, the lawmakers said.

The current regulations are confusing, the lawmakers said.

“We urge Congress to pass this legislation before more Americans are sickened by contaminated meat, poultry, or egg products, DeLauro said. "We need federal agencies that will protect public health, not bend to the threats of deep-pocketed food producers seeking to escape regulation.”

This isn't the first time DeLauro has gone after the USDA. She has also complained that the agency's push to overhaul poultry inspection procedures would weaken food safety laws.