Schumer: 2.5 Million Contaminated Chickens In Indiana Expose Enormous Loophole In Food Safety
Currently No Way to Trace Poultry Contaminated by Feed -- Without Tracking, No Way of Knowing if Contaminated Chickens Were Sold to Consumers in Recent Months
Schumer to Reintroduce Bill that Creates Tracking System to Trace Meat and Poultry to Source in Case of Contamination or Outbreak of Disease
WASHINGTON With news that at least 2.5 million chickens in Indiana may have been exposed to contaminated feed, Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced his plan to reintroduce the Meat and Poultry Traceability Act, a bill that would require the Secretary of Agriculture to be able to trace all meat and poultry back to the farms or slaughterhouses where they were raised or slaughtered. Schumer also wrote to Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Agency, asking him to take urgent action on investigating feed and feed lots at farms to ensure that animals are not being fed contaminated food.
"In this case, we have been lucky so far that no one has suffered health problems from eating chicken that were given contaminated feed, but we can't rely on luck next time. In the case of an outbreak of disease or contamination in our meat and poultry supplies, we've got to be able to trace all products back to the farms or slaughterhouses they came from in order to stop an outbreak from harming consumers," Schumer said.
Schumer will reintroduce the Meat and Poultry Products Traceability and Safety Act to improve the safety of meat and poultry products by enhancing the ability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to retrieve the history, use and location of meat and poultry products through a recordkeeping and audit system or registered identification. If meat from a diseased cow were to spread, currently there is no comprehensive system in place from farm to retail to track meat products throughout the country. Schumer's legislation would allow for a meat and poultry traceback system to be set up by USDA so that, in cases where a health safety issue arises because of the presence of a foodborne pathogens or disease, such as Mad Cow, E. coli, or salmonella, the meat can be traced from the farm to slaughter to retail, at each point along the foodsupply chain. This would help prevent other contaminated meat or diseased animals from entering the foodsupply chain, and assist in recall.
Schumer also signed on as a cosponsor to the Pet and Human Food Safety Amendment, an amendment that is expected to pass today. Introduced by Senators Ted Kennedy and Dick Durbin in response to the recent outbreak of contaminated pet food, the amendment will also strengthen food safety standards.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year food borne pathogens such as Listeria, E. coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter are responsible for over 76 million illnesses, more than 300,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths.
In addition, Schumer sent a letter to Commissioner von Eschenbach of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency in charge of monitoring animal feed. In the letter, Schumer urges the FDA to step up its efforts to monitor feed supplies at farms to prevent a repeat of this frightening episode. Senator Schumer's letter to Commissioner Eschenbach is below.
May 2, 2007
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach
Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
Dear Dr. von Eschenbach,
I write to you today to urge the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to do everything within its power to more proactively investigate meat and poultry farms so to further protect animals from ingesting tainted feed that could then negatively impact human consumers.
As you are aware, earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered that byproducts from pet food manufactured with contaminated wheat gluten imported from China were used in chicken feed on some farms in the state of Indiana. It is believed that chickens from approximately 30 broiler poultry farms have ingested the contaminated chicken feed, potentially tainting millions of chickens. While USDA and FDA officials state that they do not believe the contaminated feed poses a risk to human consumers, the situation remains alarming.
While I applaud the USDA and the FDA for the steps that they have taken to begin this investigation into the contaminated chicken feed, I believe that the FDA has the power to prevent situations like this from occurring in the future by proactively investigating farms to inspect feed and feed lots. As you know, the FDA has monitored the feed that the nation's animals eat for many years. Until this point, it has utilized its authority in monitoring the nation's feed by inspecting and investigating farms only after an outbreak or incident. However, according to 21CFR11.19, the FDA has the authority to institute special regulations, if necessary, to cover the inspection of "excluded operations", such as meat and poultry farms before an incident. I urge you to consider instituting these special regulations to allow for FDA inspection of farms in relation to animal feed before an incident.
Thank you for your consideration.
Charles E. Schumer