A bipartisan coalition of senators Tuesday proposed legislation to give federal authorities more power and resources to inspect food processed in the U.S. and abroad, according to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The legislation comes on the heels of a major scandal over salmonella-tainted peanut products, blamed for nine deaths and more than 660 cases of illness in 44 states.

The contamination was traced to a plant in Blakely, Ga., owned by the Peanut Corp. of America. A second plant in Texas, also owned by Peanut Corp., also has been implicated.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the lead co-sponsor, said such incidents are the result of a U.S. food-safety system that is "outdated, under-funded and overwhelmed."


The legislation, whose Republican co-sponsors include Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, would give the Food and Drug Administration new power to monitor food processing and lab testing.

It provides for $825 million to cover the cost of the increased oversight.

Chambliss, ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee and perhaps the strongest supporter of the peanut industry on Capitol Hill, said he was backing the bill because "Americans must be able to trust that the food sold in their grocery stores and restaurants is safe."