A bill introduced in U.S. House of Representatives on June 25 would offer the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) more authority to recall meat, poultry or egg products contaminated with pathogens that can cause serious illness or death. The legislation, known as the Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act, was proposed by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y.

The Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act, follows frustration among food safety advocates over the lack of recalls in the Foster Farms Salmonella outbreak which caused as many as 574 people in 27 states and Puerto Rico to become sick. There was no recall, but FSIS did issue a public health alert related to the outbreak that began in October 2013.

Bill expected to eliminate confusion about when to recall

FSIS in the past has expressed concerns that the agency lacks the authority to recall tainted foods, and this bill would change that, its advocates say.

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"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 and Slaughter said in a statement. “We urge Congress to pass this legislation before more Americans are sickened by contaminated meat, poultry or egg products. We need federal agencies that will protect public health."

The bill names both Salmonella and Campylobacter as pathogens and says the ban would apply to bacteria resistant to two or more antibiotics considered critically important for human medicine by the World Health Organization (WHO). If adopted, the bill would amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Egg Products Inspection Act.

FSIS responds to Pathogens Reduction and Testing Reform Act

Responding to the proposed legislation, FSIS issued the following statement: “We appreciate the Congresswomen’s ongoing efforts on our shared goal of ensuring food safety standards continue to be stringent, effective, and constantly improving. FSIS will continue to work aggressively in preventing foodborne illness, including implementing the first ever performance standards for Salmonella in chicken parts and ground poultry later this year.”