April 21/Boston/Associated Press -- The U.S. Senate has passed legislation that would boost the criminal penalties for knowingly flouting food safety rules.

The Food Safety Accountability Act, S. 216, was passed unanimously by the Senate and referred to the House. The measure would subject individuals or companies that knowingly contaminate the food supply by distributing misbranded or tainted food products to felony charges punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Currently such food suppliers are subject to misdemeanor charges.

“On behalf of the hundreds of individuals sickened by recent salmonella outbreaks, I urge the House to quickly pass the Food Safety Accountability Act and join the Senate in continuing to improve our food safety system,” said the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. Leahy filed a similar measure last session after his bid to include tougher criminal penalties in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act failed.

From the April 21, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.