Food Safety Reform Needed Now
Today, victims of foodborne illness, including mothers and their children, are dropping off lunch bags to Senate offices in Washington, DC and Senate offices in several communities throughout the country. These mock-up lunch bags detail the potential health hazards that may exist in common lunch items such as sandwiches, snacks, berries and juice- foods that caring moms across the country are packing up to send their kids back to school with, and foods that we take for granted as being safe.
As the executive director of S.T.O.P.- Safe Tables Our Priority, an organization that has been supporting thousands of victims of foodborne disease for the past 16 years, I can tell you that legislative reform for FDA-regulated foods is sorely needed. FDA regulates 80% of the food supply and many of the products that we send with our kids to school in lunch bags. However, inspection by FDA of domestic food plants only happens on average once every 10 years. Imports are even worse, with a yearly inspection rate of only 1% of all foods that enter the United States.
The CDC estimates that 76 million Americans get sick, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die every year from foodborne illness. That’s 14 people a day dying from contaminated food, much of which is preventable. But, this isn’t just about the numbers and statistics. It happens to real people like Jill who became deathly ill from E. coli O157:H7 in the 2006 spinach outbreak. I asked her mom to join us at a food safety press conference last week and here is her heartbreaking response:
Hello. I have spoken to Jill regarding the conference coming up next week in Des Moines and had considered attending. But after giving it a lot of thought, I must decline for my own selfish reasons....I still cannot talk about Jill's experience with E.coli without reliving that horrible, horrible time. I just cannot verbally communicate the fear and anxiety a mother experiences seeing their child die a slow and agonizing death. Even though it's been nearly 3 years, the pain is still just too fresh.
I just re-read Jill's experience with her bout with E coli/HUS on your web-site. I've read it many times before and I still break down when I read it. When Jill's condition deteriorated to the point the doctors wanted to move her to Intensive Care, my heart sunk to my feet. It was only to get worse from that point.
Although all the teams of doctors and nurses were so kind, there was nothing they could do to stop Jill's organs from shutting down, one by one! She was in CONSTANT pain, she bloated up because of kidney failure, she was being poked with needles every 2 hrs, even through the night, for blood work. My 24-year-old baby girl, who had run marathons, played volleyball during high school & college and was in good physical condition and watched what she ate, now couldn't even get out of bed!
I would sit with her, day after day, night after night. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed that the Lord would spare her. But when Jill deteriorated to the point that she was put on oxygen, her body was going through spasms, she was having chest pains and she was hallucinating.....the nurses asked that I not stay with her that night.
Jill had been assigned her own personal nurse that day. The nurse was right outside her room, when not in the room. I know, in my heart, they didn't expect her to live through the night. I had spoken privately with one of the other nurses earlier that day, and even though she couldn't say it out-right, her tears spoke the words she couldn't say! At that point, I prayed that if it was God's will, that Jill would be taken peacefully and be spared any further pain.
The Lord let us keep Jill with us. I thank Him EVERY day! Jill's life, my life and the lives of my family will never be the same. I thank you so much for what you and your organization are doing to keep food safe for all of us!!
On July 30th the House passed HR 2749, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009. Now the Senate must act on S. 510 which will come from the HELP committee and it’s new chair Senator Harkin of Iowa. To get more information on the lunchbag project and find about about the Senate bill go to http://www.makeourfoodsafe.org. For more information on food safety or to report a foodborne illness send an email to: email@example.com or go to www.safetables.org.