US Documentary Leads to New Poultry Recall Powers

US - After a documentary highlighted cases of preventable foodborne illnesses, the government announced new powers for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to recall contaminated poultry and meat products to protect consumers.
calendar icon 14 May 2015
clock icon 4 minute read

The documentary, from PBS' Frontline, showed how dangerous contaminants spread through poultry processors and how regulators are failing to prevent the illnesses they cause. Approximately one in six Americans annually become sick from foodborne disease.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act to provide the USDA with mandatory recall authority over contaminated meat and poultry.

“Our food safety system is failing to protect Americans, leaving thousands of people hospitalised every year with preventable illnesses,” said Ms Gillibrand.

“Poultry and meat known to be contaminated should never end up in market fridges and freezers or our kitchens.

"The USDA must have the authority to recall products that test positive for contaminants, and consumers need to know when food has been recalled.”

Bill Marler, a leading US foodborne illness attorney, said: “It is time to treat all bacteria and viruses that sicken US consumers the same.

“They should be banned from both imports and from food produced in the US. Banning these bugs from our food supply would save both consumers and the food industry billions of dollars in medical and recall costs.”

The Meat and Poultry Recall Notification Act would improve consumer awareness in the event of a high priority food safety recall of meat, poultry and egg products by:

  • Giving USDA mandatory recall authority for meat, poultry, and some egg products.
  • Encouraging retailers’ use of frequent shopper/shopper reward cards that monitor purchases to notify customers who may have purchased recalled products.
  • Creating a 1-page Recall Summary Notice that could be prominently displayed at points of sale in retail outlets that sold a recalled product or on the store shelf where a product was sold.

Under the proposed bill, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would be granted authority to require companies to recall contaminated food and notify all related persons to cease all activities related to the recalled food. FSIS would have the authority to notify consumers and state and local health officials of an ongoing recall.

The USDA would issue a Recall Summary Notice to all retail outlets that sold a recalled product. This Notice would be displayed at all cash registers or at the shelf location where the recalled product was presented for sale.

Those retail outlets that use customer card systems to track customer purchases and demographics could call or email each customer that purchased a recalled food product or make available to each customer a targeted coupon with information about the recalled product.

The USDA would have the power to issue penalties for refusal to comply with a recall.

According the US Department of Agriculture estimates, nearly a quarter of all cut-up chicken parts are contaminated by Salmonella and another Consumer Reports study found that one third of all chicken breast with Salmonella carry a drug resistant strain of the disease.

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