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Leigh Ann Winnard's picture

When you’re a mom and your child gets seriously ill, it breaks your heart. It makes you mad when you learn that more could have been done to prevent your child’s illness. It makes you determined that no one’s child should be put at risk unnecessarily when provided a basic need for survival – food.

My now 16-year-old son Matthew contracted an E. coli O157:H7 infection and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) in 2002.  His illness was linked to a recalled food.  That’s why my family supports strong food safety legislation currently being considered in Congress. Before my son got sick, I believed that our government and our food regulatory agencies were on top of making us aware and keeping our food safe.  Sadly, now I know that’s not the case.

The proposed food-safety legislation will provide the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – which regulates all food except meat, poultry and some egg products – with the authorities and tools necessary to prevent and respond more effectively to foodborne illness.  As a result, the bill will reduce unnecessary health-care costs, especially for the young and elderly, and, most importantly, it will cause fewer deaths from foodborne illness.

My son’s E. coli infection and HUS weakened him to the point that he could not walk, sit or stand.  He was given blood transfusions, which kick-started his red blood cells to begin regenerating.  He is one of the lucky children -- 9 people died and over 45 were severely sickened in the 2002 outbreak.  At this time, he is living without any known, long- term implications; however, Matthew’s kidney function is checked every year.

Our lawmakers need to hear from mothers like me, who have witnessed a child’s suffering from a devastating but preventable illness, and from all moms who believe that our government can and should do more to make sure that our food supply is as safe as it could be.

Go to and sign your name to a letter to Congress (which I helped write), urging it to pass strong food-safety legislation and have it on the President’s desk, ready for his signature, by Mother’s Day (May 9th).

Congress can consider passing it a Mother’s Day gift to all American moms.

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