New Florez bill may let state order food recalls
of Article: http://thecalifornian.com/article/20090422/NEWS01/904220308/1002
- For the first time, California health officials could order a recall of
contaminated food under the terms of a bill that passed its first
legislative review Monday.
The recall authority is part of
Senate Bill 173, which also would give growers and food processors
incentives to adopt a food safety plan and test their products routinely.
Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, the
bill's author, also introduced SB 416 to end the regular use of antibiotics
in animals sold for human consumption.
"We shouldn't be putting
antibiotics in food and water when animals aren't sick," Florez said.
Both bills passed the Senate Food
and Agriculture Committee, which he chairs. SB 416 next goes to the Senate
Education Committee and SB 173 goes to the Senate Rules Committee.
Both measures prompted questions
and criticism from agricultural groups and one committee member.
By 2012, SB 416 would prohibit
schools from serving food treated with drugs not needed to deal with an
illness. Three years later, such drug use would be banned in all food for
Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa
Maria, questioned whether animals should be routinely medicated before they
reached a feedlot, but once there, he said, they are more likely to
"Once an animal hits a
feedlot, they should take
some medication to keep them from
getting ill," Maldonado said. He suggested that drug treatments might
be stopped some time period before animals are slaughtered.
A veterinarian and farm
representatives said that animal medications are part of a federally
devised system and are necessary to ensure the safety of food products.
"By having healthy animals,
we have a healthy food supply," said Michael Boccadaro, a lobbyist for
poultry firms. Since the 2006 E. coli outbreak in spinach, which killed
three people and sickened 200 nationwide, Florez has tried unsuccessfully
to expand the authority of state public health officials to oversee food
Instead, the leafy green industry
developed a voluntary food safety program that is mandatory for
participants and overseen by the state Department of Food and Agriculture.
Right now, state health officials
can embargo contaminated produce, which blocks further distribution of
In addition to giving the
Department of Public Health the power to order recalls, Florez's SB 173
also would require growers or food processors notified of positive tests
for food-borne illness in their product to inform DPH within an hour.
Growers or processors found liable
for food-borne illness outbreaks would face triple-damage payments to
victims, on-site inspections by state health officials at least eight times
a month for at least a year at the grower's expense and a suspended
operation for up to six months.
But growers and processors with a
food safety plan and a routine testing system would be exempt from the
triple damage payments, inspections and suspension.
"We're going to try to put a
huge penalty in there," Florez said, for agricultural operators who
don't plan and test for food safety.
Agricultural lobbyists demurred
from taking a position on SB 173 because the version of the bill considered
Tuesday had only been amended the day before and they didn't have time to