State moves on tough new food safety policy - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

State moves on tough new food safety policy

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Georgia could be the first state to adopt strict new food safety requirements in the aftermath of the salmonella outbreak that centered around a Blakely plant.

The house overwhelmingly approved the measure Wednesday.

It requires companies to alert state inspectors within 24 hours if their internal tests show a product is tainted.

 In a unanimous vote the House of Representative approved a food safety bill, requiring food processing facilities to test their products.

"When it concerns peoples lives and their health and the stuff you intake in your body, I think you do all the testing you can do," said Consumer Stacey Farrell.

Now if those tests find something wrong, they must report it to the Department of Agriculture within 24 hours. It also allows state inspectors to see a company's records, including the step that makes the product safe for consumption.

"In this bill, the pathogen step which is the kill step they have the right to inspect the records of that step," said Sen. John Bulloch (R) Ochlocknee.

The proposal was introduced after the nation's largest food recall was linked to Peanut Corporation of America's Blakely plant. Investigators say PCA shipped salmonella-laced products after internal tests showed they were contaminated but those tests weren't reported because the company wasn't required to by law. Consumers say the change makes them feel safer, knowing this bill might make other companies think twice.

"You can't get away with everything because you're a big company," said consumer Barbara Grier. 

"It's safer and the public wants to know, that the product is safe," said consumer Lisa Kennedy.

The new law also toughens the penalties if a company fails to maintain proper records or to present them to inspectors, once it's passed the state could charge that company with a felony.

The Senate must approve minor changes the House made to the bill before it goes to the Governor for his signature.

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