Kevin's Law (as referred to in Representative Anna Eshoo's introduction of the law in 2005 and in the 2008 documentary Food, Inc.; formally known as the Meat and Poultry Pathogen Reduction and Enforcement Act of 2003) was proposed legislation that would have given the U.S. Department of Agriculture the power to close down plants that produce contaminated meat.
Kevin's Law was nicknamed in memory of two-year-old Kevin Kowalcyk of Colorado, who died in 2001 after developing hemolytic-uremic syndrome due to eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
The bill was originally introduced by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, as H.R. 3160, in the 109th Congress. This bill never became law, as it was referred to committee but never reported on. Versions of the bill have been introduced in each subsequent Congress, but as of April 2010 have never been reported out of committee.
Kevin's Law would strengthen the U.S. government's ability to prevent contaminated meat and poultry from entering the food supply by:
- Requiring the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to identify the pathogens that threaten human health (e.g. Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes).
- Requiring the USDA to establish performance standards to reduce the presence of these pathogens in meat and poultry.
- Confirming that the USDA has the authority to enforce its own standards by shutting down plants that continually breach basic health standards. Courts have held that the USDA does not have this authority in the absence of explicit authorizing legislation.
Corporate meat processors have lobbied against Kevin's Law, arguing that it would increase the cost of food and is unnecessary.