The recent salmonella outbreak that affected more than 500 million eggs in late August made plenty of headlines across the country. Egg recalls sent many Americans running to the fridge, checking for tainted cartons. The scandal seemed to linger for weeks, as more and more brands were linked to the scare and consumers struggled to make a safe purchase. Now the media wave has passed, but legislators are beginning to talk about taking action against future illness.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act was initially proposed in March 2009 by senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and is currently lingering in Congress. But the aftermath of the egg-troversy has prompted New York state senator Kirsten Gillibrand to speak out in in support of her own legislative addition to this act.
In March 2010, senator Gillibrand proposed the Consumer Recall Notification Act as an addendum to the larger food safety bill. This act would charge retailers with the responsibility of notifying customers of any food recalls or contaminations. If a Class 1 recall (the most serious FDA categorization) were to occur, a retailer would have to place notifiers of the recall at the register, on the shelf where the product is sold, and at other prominent locations in the store. They would also be required to use membership information to contact consumers who may have purchased a recalled item. Non-cooperative outlets could face fines up to $50,000.
Gillibrand's legislation is unique in its approach—rather than focus on regulating food producers, this bill improves the consumer's access to information. While clearly a top-to-bottom overhaul of regulatory processes is necessary, Gillibrand's approach is savvy in its immediacy and achievability. It's more realistic to see change in the way supermarkets handle food recalls than to expect a quick reformation of FDA inspection methods. And if the consumer can see which food may be contaminated before it even enters their cart, illness could be contained much quicker.
The senate is poised to vote on this legislation later this month. If passed, it could have a huge impact on the way the FDA handles factory inspection and recall logistics. I look forward to seeing how Congress handles such a challenge. We have been hit with such a barrage of food recalls in the recent past that they hardly come as a shock anymore. If we cannot fix the regulatory problems of the FDA and USDA overnight, at least we can hope to be more informed in the face of future outbreaks.
All products linked here have been independently selected by our editors. We may earn a commission on purchases, as described in our affiliate policy.