Senate passes Food Safety Crime Bill with greatly enhanced penalties

May 19, 2011   

The United States Senate recently passed a food safety crime bill sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy that will significantly strengthen criminal penalties for companies and persons that knowingly violate food safety standards and place tainted products on the market. The legislation, known as the Food Safety Accountability Act, will create a new criminal offense in Title 18 of the United States Code, and will have significant criminal penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment for committing certain food offenses “knowingly and intentionally to defraud or misleadand with conscious or reckless disregard or a risk of death or serious bodily injury.” The Senates version will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration. This bill evidences the Governments increased focus on food safety and adds teeth into the new Food Safety Modernization Act, passed last year to increase the regulatory powers and oversight of the Food & Drug Administration.

The FDA is ramping up criminal enforcement of the nations food and drug laws. We have previously blogged about the unsuccessful prosecution of the general counsel of GlaxoSmithKline, a large pharmaceutical company for obstruction of justice, here. We have also recently blogged here on the new emphasis by the FDA on bringing Park doctrine prosecutions, where corporate executives can be convicted of crimes even if they have no knowledge of or intent to commit a crime. Our lawyers are monitoring the progress of this bill and are ready to advise clients on how to navigate the FDAs regulatory minefield.