New Potential Risk for Dietary Supplements and Organics – S. 3767

Tuesday, September 14, 2010 @ 10:09 PM
posted by admin

September 13: Senators Leahy and Franken introduced S. 3767, the Food Safety Accountability Act.  In July they had introduced S. 3669 the Food Safety Enforcement Act of 2010 which was referred to the Senate HELP Committee because it dealt with Title 21, the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.  This new bill modifies Title 18, the Criminal Code, Chapter 47 the Fraud and False Statements section.

This means not just the FDA would be involved when there is a ‘misbranding’ or ‘adulteration’ – it means that the Justice Department has immediate jurisdiction and someone can actually go to jail.

This is a hardball maneuver with a couple of possible strategies.  It could be done to force S. 510, Food Safety Bill, for a vote, or it could be that there is a desire to see this stand alone bill happen this year because S. 510 is not moving.  It is also likely that there is a maneuver to see this bill (or one of the earlier bills) added to S. 510.  The Senator the power, if S. 510 comes to the floor for a vote, to offer it as an amendment and may well succeed.

This is very bad for the organic food industry in general, but it is HORRIBLE for the dietary supplement industry.  Remember, ‘misbranding’ or ‘adulteration’ are the mechanisms that the FDA uses when they do not agree with the language on the label or packaging of a supplement.  (i.e. making a drug claim, or using language the FDA interprets as a drug claim.) This inserts the Justice Department and criminal penalties from the very beginning into every instance in which there is a contaminated food product including dietary supplements as well as a misbranded product (i.e. a problem with the label.)

Over and over again, we see a reactionary approach topolicy where either “one size fits all “ or “a chainsaw approach were a scalpel is needed”.

“Frankly,” states Beth Clay, “ Congress just needs to put off food safety legislation until 2011 and the 112th Congress.  This ripped from the headlines legislative approach is not good for the country.”

We all have to be ready to send letters about stopping both bills.

Here are Statements from the Senator Floor yesterday:

S. 3767. A bill to establish appropriate criminal penalties for certain knowing violations relating to food that is misbranded or adulterated; to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, today, I am pleased to introduce the Food Safety Accountability Act with Senators KLOBUCHAR and FRANKEN. This common sense bill will hold criminals who poison our food supply accountable for their crimes. It introduces a new criminal provision and increases the sentences that prosecutors can seek for people who knowingly violate our food safety laws. If it is passed, those who knowingly contaminate our food supply and endanger Americans could receive up to 10 years in jail.

This summer, a salmonella outbreak causing hundreds of people to fall ill triggered a national egg recall. The cause of the outbreak is still under investigation, but salmonella poisoning is all too common and sometimes results from inexcusable knowing conduct. Just last year, a mother from Vermont, Gabrielle Meunier, testified before the Senate Agriculture Committee about her 7-year-old son, Christopher, who became severely ill and was hospitalized for 6 days after he developed salmonella poisoning from peanut crackers. Thankfully, Christopher recovered, and Mrs. Meunier was able to share her story, which highlighted for the Committee and for the Senate improvements that are needed in our food safety system. No parent should have to go through what Mrs. Meunier experienced. The American people should be confident that the food they buy for their families is safe.

Current statutes do not provide sufficient criminal sanctions for those who knowingly violate our food safety laws. The fines and recalls that usually result from criminal violations under current law fall short in protecting the public from harmful products. Too often, those who are willing to endanger our children in pursuit of profits view such fines or recalls as merely the cost of doing business. Indeed, the company responsible for the eggs at the root of the current salmonella crisis has a long history of environmental, immigration, labor and food safety violations. It is clear that civil and criminal fines are not enough to protect the public and effectively deter this unacceptable conduct. We need to make sure that those who knowingly poison the food supply will go to jail. The bill I introduce today will add a new criminal provision and increase sentences for people who put profits above safety by knowingly contaminating the food supply.

After hearing Mrs. Meunier’s account, I called on the Department of Justice to conduct a criminal investigation into the outbreak of salmonella that made Christopher and many others so sick. The outbreak was traced to the Peanut Corporation of America. The president of that company, Stewart Parnell, came before Congress and invoked his right against self-incrimination, refusing to answer questions about his role in distributing contaminated peanut products. These products were linked to the deaths of nine people and have sickened more than 600 others. It appears that Parnell knew that peanut products from his company had tested positive for deadly salmonella, but rather than immediately disposing of the products, he sought ways to sell them anyway. The evidence suggests that he knowingly put profit above the public’s safety. Our laws must be strengthened to ensure this does not happen again. This bill significantly increases the chances that those who commit food safety crimes will face jail time, rather than a slap on the wrist, for their criminal conduct.

I hope Senators of both parties will act quickly to pass this bill. On behalf of Mrs. Meunier and her son, Christopher, as well as the hundreds of individuals sickened by this summer’s and last year’s salmonella outbreaks, we must repair our broken food safety system. The Justice Department must be given the tools it needs to investigate, prosecute, and truly deter crime involving food safety. If Congress acts to pass it, this bill will be an important step toward making our food supply safer.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:

The Bill itself:

S. 3767

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the “Food Safety Accountability Act of 2010”.

SEC. 2. CRIMINAL PENALTIES.

(a) In General.–Chapter 47 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: “§1041. Misbranded and adulterated food

“(a) In General.–It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly–

“(1) introduce or deliver for introduction into interstate commerce any food that is adulterated or misbranded; or

“(2) adulterate or misbrand any food in interstate commerce.

“(b) Penalty.–Any person who violates subsection (a) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 10 years, or both.”.

(b) Technical and Conforming Amendment.–The table of sections for chapter 47 of

title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

“1041. Misbranded and adulterated food.”.

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