Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has renewed his quest to increase the sentences prosecutors can seek to impose on those who knowingly sell tainted food products. He has reintroduced the Food Safety Accountability Act (S. 216) and promises to schedule hearings in the near future before the Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. While the proposal passed unanimously out of that committee in September 2010, Leahy was unable to attach it to the Food and Drug Administration Food Safety Modernization Act, approved during the lame duck session at the close of the year.
With five Democratic co-sponsors, the bill would allow prison sentences up to 10 years for the most egregious food safety violators. Referring to the nationwide Salmonella outbreak and recall involving an Iowa egg producer with a history of violations, Leahy said when he introduced the bill, “It is clear that fines are not enough to protect the public and effectively deter this unacceptable conduct. We need to make sure that those who intentionally poison the food supply will go to jail. . . . Current statutes do not provide sufficient criminal sanctions for those who violate our food safety laws with the intent to mislead or defraud. Doing so is already illegal, but it is merely a misdemeanor now, and the Sentencing Commission has found that it generally does not result in jail time.” See Press Release of Senator Patrick Leahy, January 27, 2011.