Senator Gillibrand Announces Bill to Expand FDA’s Investigative Authorities
As our readers know, this blog has previously covered the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreaks that occurred in the spring and fall of 2018. Ultimately, FDA determined that the outbreak that occurred in the spring of 2018 may have been caused by Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) in the Yuma, Arizona area, and the outbreak that occurred in the fall of 2018 may have been due to a contaminated on-farm water reservoir.
On November 19, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY announced her new legislation to help improve food safety across the country. The Expanded Food Safety Inspection Act would expand FDA’s investigative authorities to trace the source of outbreaks of foodborne illness. Under existing law and regulations, FDA is limited to investigating the produce farms from where the outbreaks originated. However, FDA does not have the ability to access nearby farms that may be the source of contamination or that may have contributed to the root cause of a foodborne illness outbreak. As explained in a press release, the Expanded Food Safety Inspection Act would allow the FDA to coordinate with state and local public health organizations, the USDA, and the CDC in order “to better determine the source of outbreaks and give them the authority to investigate contamination from nearby farms.” This would help eliminate sources of contamination directly, decrease the chances of repeated outbreaks within the same region, and facilitate the quick recall of dangerous food products.
Senator Gillibrand is to introduce the bill in the Senate within the coming weeks. The legislation is endorsed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Consumer Federation of America. We will continue to monitor developments on the Expanded Food Safety Inspection Act