On March 15, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Consumer Recall Notification Act in the Senate. As proposed, the bill would impose requirements on grocery stores and food distribution centers in the event of a food recall. Within 24 hours, such facilities would be required to either list the recalled food items in their stores or contact customers who had purchased such items by using information obtained through customer card programs. FDA would enforce violations of the proposed notification regime through civil penalties.
In addition, the proposed bill would provide FDA with greater oversight of farms and food processors. These facilities would be required to comply with standard procedures and advisories established by FDA for responding to food recalls. The bill would also allow the federal agency to hire more inspectors and arrange for more frequent inspections of food facilities.
Proponents of the bill hoped that it would gain momentum in light of this summer's salmonella outbreak linked to tainted eggs from two Iowa facilities, Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg. Between May and September, the outbreak caused over 1,600 reported illnesses. In August, the two facilities issued recalls, resulting in the recall of over 500 million eggs. Upon inspection of the Iowa facilities, FDA discovered unsanitary conditions at both Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg.
Despite widespread support among consumer advocacy groups and food manufacturers, the bill is currently shelved, at least temporarily, in the Senate. Among the bill's most vocal critics is Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), who has threatened to block the bill until its spending provisions are offset by budget cuts elsewhere.