Indiana poised to adopt tough new food safety bill


State lawmakers have passed a tough new law that will help keep dangerous food out of Indiana grocery stores and restaurants. It's being called a huge win for food safety, and it's the result of an Eyewitness News investigation.

Across the state last year, 13 Investigates found truckloads full of beef, sausage, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, and vegetables - all of it spoiled or contaminated and all of it heading to Indiana grocery stores and restaurants.

Our investigation caught the attention of Indiana lawmakers.

"It's deplorable. It's unacceptable," said Rep. Bill Davis (R-Portland).

"It definitely is a health concern," said Rep. Tim Brown (R-Crawfordsville).

They responded with a bill that would give state police more authority to take these dangerous truckloads of food off the road.

Indiana senators and representatives have been considering the legislation for weeks and have now taken decisive action.

Senators passed the food transportation bill by a vote of 49-0. The vote in the House (93-0) was unanimous, too.

It comes not a day too soon. In the past few weeks, 13 Investigates and Indiana State Police found more trouble heading to local restaurants.

We discovered a delivery truck was transporting unsafe, contaminated food to Chinese restaurants around Indianapolis. Raw squid had fallen onto the bed of the truck, and underneath the squid were vegetables. Boxes of chicken sat next to raw onions. The health department calls that a risk for cross contamination. It poses a big risk for food poisoning and this is the type of thing that can really make your family sick.

But the state trooper couldn't cite the company for a single food safety violation. He had to call in the local health department. It took hours to finally get this food condemned so it wouldn't end up in restaurants.

Indiana's new food transportation law will change that.

"We feel it's critical because it's one of those areas where we didn't have all the tools necessary to do our job," said Capt. Wayne Andrews, Indiana State Police. "The food product was out of our reach. This bill allows us to immediately take enforcement action. I think you can rest a little bit safer knowing that we can immediately take unsafe food off the road as soon as we see it."

The new law will mean State Police can impound trucks that transport food unsafely, and the drivers of those trucks can face a $5,000 fine.

State lawmakers say it's meant to send a clear message.

"It says we're serious about this and if you're going to come to Indiana and transport food, you need to do it the right way," said Rep. Davis.

"I think this is one of the most important bills we're putting out this year. The impact on the public is they are going to be safer," said Sen. Tom Wyss (R-Fort Wayne).

The bill is now on its way to the governor. It is considered an emergency action, which means it will become law the moment the governor signs it. At that moment, Indiana will boast the toughest food transportation safety law in the nation.