The Senate “on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that would increase the criminal penalties for knowing and willing food safety violations that put consumers at risk of serious illness or death,” Law360 reports.
S. 216, the Food Safety Accountability Act, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., would allow federal prosecutors to seek sentences of up to 10 years behind bars for individuals or entities that knowingly contaminate the food supply with the intent to mislead, defraud or endanger consumers.
The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Al Franken, D-Minn.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; and Herb Kohl, D-Wis.
Leahy, whose committee reported out the legislation with broad bipartisan support on March 31, called the Food Safety Accountability Act “an important bill to hold criminals who poison our food supply accountable for their crimes.”
Knowing distribution of adulterated or misbranded food is already illegal, but it is currently classified as a misdemeanor, providing relatively light punishment for even the most flagrant violations, Leahy said. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, criminal violations of food safety laws rarely result in jail time.