Protect consumers from foodborne illness
Protect consumers from foodborne
The Bakersfield Californian | Wednesday, Aug 05 2009 07:23 PM
Updated Wednesday, Aug 05 2009 07:25 PM
estimated 12.2 million Californians falling ill yearly from foodborne
pathogens, passage of the Food Safety Enhancement Act by the U.S. House of
Representatives last week was a long-awaited victory, and a step in the
safety advocacy organization STOP (Safe Tables Our Priority) has been
advocating for U.S. Food and Drug Administration reform for more than 15
years. We were joined by thousands of foodborne illness victims and other
advocacy groups concerned about the safety of our nation's food supply.
of the dangers of foodborne illness while in Bakersfield during the 1980s
when my husband was stationed at a U.S. Public Health clinic. However, it
wasn't until 1993 when my first-grade daughter's best friend died in the
Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak that I learned how lax safeguards were to
protect the public health.
just buried Lauren, but still didn't have her cause of death. Then, a few
weeks later, the national news reported similar illnesses and deaths in
Washington state, but because California didn't have laws requiring
reporting of E. coli cases to public health authorities that tainted meat
sickened over 500 others and killed three more children.
then, STOP victims have been educating policymakers and advocating for
stronger food safety measures. Yet, last month, California Congressman Jim
Costa at a House Agriculture Committee public hearing said that food safety
is "like driving a car" -- just as a person who drives assumes
safety risks and consequences, a person preparing food should be
responsible for its safety. He said consumers have to cook their food
better. Is he really saying that raw California produce and leafy greens
are only safe when cooked?
hearing was STOP mom Robyn Allgood, who lost her 2 year-old son, Kyle, in
2006 after feeding him E.coli O157:H7-contaminated fresh spinach. Also at
the hearing was STOP member Jeff Almer, whose 72-year-old mother, Shirley,
survived two bouts of cancer only to succumb to contaminated peanut butter.
Rep. Costa, D-Fresno, eventually voted for the Act, unlike Rep. Kevin
McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the chief deputy whip. But even Costa's vote came
only after concessions were made to his House Agriculture Committee. It's a
shame when food safety becomes a turf war in Congress. We thank Rep. Costa
for his vote, but urge him and Rep. McCarthy to become better informed
about the need for FDA reform, not only for consumers but for their
agricultural constituents. No industry wants or can afford to be implicated
in the death or disability of its customers, and that's just what happens
during large national outbreaks.
encourage U.S Senators Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein to take the Food
Safety Enhancement Act and make it even stronger in the Senate this fall.
The Act must ensure frequent inspections based on risk, reporting of
positive pathogen tests to the FDA, giving FDA food recall authority,
protecting civil penalties for violators, and securing adequate funding to
make the reform meaningful. No parents should ever have to watch their
child die from tainted hamburger or spinach. No child should ever have to
bury a parent prematurely because of contaminated peanut butter.
Rosenbaum is executive director of STOP. A former Bakersfield resident, she
has a degree in neurobiology from Northwestern University.