STOP is a national nonprofit public health organization dedicated to the prevention of illness and death from foodborne pathogens by:
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford
This favorite quote of mine is one that nicely ties in to the theme of what I’m going to share with you today. And you are a big part of that togetherness that Henry Ford spoke about.
Just a few weeks ago, I attended the Global Food Safety Initiative Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Wow, what an event! The GFSI meeting is an impressive, highly interactive platform for collaboration between some of the world’s leading food safety experts from industry, retailers, advocacy organizations, academia and government.
It was truly a global “coming together” of the best and brightest minds in food safety.
Hundreds of attendees were there. The World Health Organization, Wal-Mart, Target, Cargill, top universities, consultants from every field and passionate food advocates across the globe gathered with one common aim: To help make food around the world safer to eat.
Although STOP isn’t always in agreement with what’s expressed at conferences, it gives us the opportunity to share our view. Different perspectives truly make for a robust discussion and healthy debate on the issues.
Topics presented and discussed included trends in food safety, quality management, food security, local food in a global environment, sustainability, audits and certification.
Mike Taylor, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, gave an enlightening and thought-provoking presentation titled “Then and Now: Advancing Food Safety in a Global Food System.”
If you had been there with me, one of the things I think you would have enjoyed most was listening to Mike recognize the important work of STOP Foodborne Illness during his talk. With heartfelt thanks, he acknowledged all of the impressive work that STOP has helped accomplish over the years.
My BIG takeaway is this:
You and I and all of us with STOP—along with the many smart, committed people I met with and heard from at GFSI—bring important perspectives and voices that are all vital for food safety progress.
So, please keep your thoughts, feedback and stories coming forward to us and to your legislators and in the forums we provide in our communications. Just like Sharon Griswold’s inspiring story that we feature below, you are a powerful force in making positive change happen.
For me, there are many exciting “to do” tasks that I’m working on now after the conference. People to follow-up with and thank. Pledges for support to coordinate and bring to fruition. Plans to make for future meetings and events.
Going forward, you have my word that I’ll keep cultivating the valuable connections made at the GFSI event. By keeping together and working together, we’ll push forward progress and bring more success to our collective efforts to make our global food supply a safer one.
As we travel down this path together, it’s clear that there are many ways of getting to where we want to go. I’m proud that STOP is at the table—so to speak—and I’m thrilled that you’re sitting in one of our chairs.
CEO, STOP Foodborne Illness
PS: I want to give special thanks to Wal-Mart Corporation whose donation of the registration fee made it possible for me to attend.
Are you passionate about STOP’s mission of preventing illness and saving lives by keeping deadly pathogens out of our food supply?
Are you interested in taking on a rewarding leadership role where you could bring about bold, positive change for the people we serve?
Can you help financially support our work as well as attract support from others?
If you answered “yes” to the questions above, then you may be someone we’re looking for to join STOP’s dynamic and committed team of board members.
Maybe you’re like Kathleen Chrismer.
One of our board members, Kathleen Chrismer, has a story that might resonate with you.
Soon after Kathleen’s daughter, Rylee, became seriously sickened from eating spinach tainted with E. coli O157:H7, Kathleen learned about STOP. She got involved in advocacy efforts, along with Rylee. Kathleen began to feel empowered by making her voice heard in meetings with legislators and in media interviews. And she always felt a sense of gratification when she had the chance to help others who were affected.
Before too long, Kathleen became motivated to do more. When STOP asked her to consider stepping up to a spot on our Board, Kathleen enthusiastically accepted. Her reason? To make sure that children like Rylee and others don’t suffer through illness or death from eating contaminated food.
In Kathleen’s words, “In honor of Rylee, I felt that I could help steer STOP’s growth in a way that would help do more to prevent illness and save lives. This has become a passion and purpose in my life. Together, with Rylee, we’re showing others that we can’t sit on the sidelines and expect change to happen. We have to take action and help make it happen.”
You can create lasting impact and leave a legacy.
Just like Kathleen, you may be someone who’s been personally affected by the pain and suffering that a foodborne illness can cause. And, like Kathleen, I’m sure you have a unique and valuable combination of experience, expertise, skills and talents that you can use to help STOP realize its vision of a safe food supply for all.
Maybe you’re especially gifted with marketing or fundraising. Or perhaps you know about the science behind food safety or how to effectively advocate with legislators. Those are just a few areas that can help deliver major progress in the work our board members do.
By giving some of your time and talent to board activities every month, I think you’ll find the benefits of board service quite rewarding. By joining us, you’ll:
In this, our 20th anniversary year, you can make an especially positive difference as a board member as we execute a new Strategic Plan with a bold vision of growth.
There’s never been a more urgent—or important—time for you to consider joining our Board of Directors
Without people like you who care deeply about our work, we simply won’t make the kind of progress needed to prevent disease and death from foodborne illness.
Want to learn more?
If you’re feeling inspired and want to learn more about serving on STOP’s Board of Directors, or if you have questions, please email me at email@example.com by May 1 to take the first step.
After I receive your email, I’ll send you an application with more information.
On behalf of our Board of Directors and everyone we serve, thank you for considering this invitation. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
PS: We’ll continue recruiting efforts after May 1, but we’d appreciate hearing from you by then if you have interest. With so many important initiatives to make progress on with our new board members, we want to mobilize them as early as we can this year.
eNews • March 2013
Get Connected with New Online Message Board (Coming Soon!)
At STOP, we know that one of the most empowering and comforting things we can do is help connect you with others who’ve shared similar experiences. So, we’re excited to let you know that we’re making it easier for you to make these meaningful connections with a new online message board. We’re in the planning stages now, but it will arrive soon at www.STOPFoodborneIllness.org. Stay tuned for more details on this easy-to-use resource you can access to share knowledge, give and get support, build friendships and more.
STOP Advocates Give Powerful Testimony at FSMA Public Meetings
At recent public meetings held by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), some of STOP’s most passionate supporters were there to tell their stories and advocate for critical changes needed in our food safety system.
At the FSMA meeting in Chicago on March 18, Michael Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, applauded STOP advocates for their “powerful” testimony. He emphasized how important their words are and will continue to be as final rules for the FSMA are prepared. STOP extends big thanks to all of the advocates who’ve testified so far and we’re looking forward to seeing more of you next week at the Portland meetings!
Advocate Dana Boner from Iowa testifies before the FDA.
CEO Deirdre Schlunegger Promotes Food Safety at GFSI in Barcelona
Promoting food safety around the globe is a priority for STOP and that’s why our participation in the Global Food Safety Initiative Conference on March 6-8 in Barcelona, Spain was so important. The GFSI provides a highly interactive platform for collaboration between some of the world's leading food safety experts from retailers, manufacturers and food service companies, service providers associated with the food supply chain, international organizations, academia and government. With nearly 1000 delegates from 53 countries present, we were able to meet and interact with food safety experts from around the world. A highlight for Deirdre was when Mike Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for the FDA, recognized the contributions of STOP during his afternoon address on Globalization and Its Effects on Food Safety.
A special thank you to Walmart Corporation: We greatly appreciate the generosity of Walmart Corporation whose donation of the registration fee made it possible for us to attend this valuable educational and networking opportunity. With Walmart’s help, STOP is doing more to make sure the food we eat is safe.
Chicago RedEye Ad Tells Readers:"Check Our List Before Making Yours"
When food gets recalled, our goal at STOP is to make sure people know about the recalls as quickly as possible and take appropriate action to help prevent illness and death from foodborne illness. That’s why we work to build awareness for our regular E-Alerts, which provide information on food recalls and outbreaks. To that end, we recently placed an ad you can see here—and proudly displayed in the photo to the right with Stanley Rutledge, Program Director. It was featured in the February 27, 2013 edition of the Chicago Red Eye reaching 200,000+ readers in the Chicagoland area. We’re excited to report that in the weeks following placement of the ad, we had a noticeable uptick in E-Alert subscribers.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP: You can continue the momentum by signing up yourself (if you’re not) and encouraging everyone you know to get our E-Alerts here. We all need to eat! And our aim at STOP is make sure the food we eat is safe. So, please help get our life-saving E-Alerts out to your family, friends, loved ones and colleagues. Thank you in advance. Your efforts could save the life of someone you love.
Spreading Food Safety News Around Chicagoland
Chicagoland Kids Expo: When it comes to foodborne illness, children are a vulnerable group. That’s why STOP makes it a priority to promote food safety to parents and kids every chance we can. On March 9 & 10 in Schaumburg, and March 16 & 17 in Tinley Park, Education Manager Vanessa Coffman met hundreds of moms, dads and kids at the STOP booth. Vanessa gave out helpful food safety information, fun prizes, cooking temperature magnets, t-shirts, coloring books and more. And over 250 people signed up for our E-Alerts!
Good Food Festival: Held in Chicago every year, the Good Food Festival & Conference is the leading food event in the country. On March 15 and 16, STOP’s Program Director, Stanley Rutledge, spent two days at the event sharing a table with Kerri McClimen & the Pew Charitable Trusts helping hundreds of attendees take action against antibiotic resistance, learn the importance of food safety, and become involved in STOP’s mission.
Would you like to volunteer to help at a future event? Contact us at Info@STOPFoodborneIllness.org to let us know. We’d love to hear from you!
When Melissa Lee’s beautiful baby daughter, Ruby, developed a fever, wouldn’t move and didn’t eat, Melissa knew something was terribly wrong. She’d later learn that little Ruby had become sickened because of salmonella-tainted ground turkey that she’d eaten. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Salmonella—along with Norovirus—cause the most foodborne illness outbreaks. In 2009-2010, the CDC found that Salmonella-contaminated eggs alone accounted for 2,231 illnesses. During that timeframe, more than 1,500 foodborne disease outbreaks were reported involving nearly 29,500 illnesses, 1,200 hospitalizations and 23 deaths.
In a recent EverydayHealth.com article, you can learn more and hear Melissa talk about what she calls a “terrifying” experience in a TODAY show video.
When a product that’s regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is recalled, you can visit this site to view product photos. This is a handy resource to turn to when you want to easily compare what’s in your kitchen with recalled products.
Speaking of recalls, are you signed up to receive STOP’s regular E-Alerts that notify you right away of food recalls and foodborne illness outbreaks? If you’re not, help keep your food and your family safe by signing up here today.
Getting More Farm Antibiotics Data: What Will It Take?
In this article on Wired.com, Maryn McKenna, author of the book SUPERBUG, takes on the prickly topic of getting more and better data from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about antibiotic use in farm animals.
Recently, the Senate committee charged with oversight of agricultural antibiotic use took up re-authorization of the regulation that delivers data on Ag drugs—without allowing any testimony about the negative, unintended consequences of misusing and overusing those drugs. A coalition of advocacy and medical groups including Pew Charitable Trusts and Keep Antibiotics Working protested the limits of the hearing. They’ve asked the HELP (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions) Committee leadership and members to increase the amount of data the FDA collects as well as the amount it publishes, all with the goal of tracking and combating antibiotic resistance.
Help Us Get to 2000 on Facebook and Twitter!
Are you following us on Facebook and Twitter?
If you’re not, now is a perfect time to help us reach our goal of 2000 likes on our Facebook page and 2000 followers on Twitter by the time we celebrate our 20th Anniversary in Washington, DC on September 25, 2013.
And please ask your friends, family, loved ones and colleagues to follow us, too!
When you sign up, why not share a post telling us why you care about the work at STOP? We’d love to hear from you.
Social media is quickly becoming the preferred way people want their news. With a growing Facebook and Twitter following, we’ll help more people prevent illness and death from foodborne illness. Thanks so much in advance for your help
Save the Date for STOP’s 20th Anniversary Reception
On Wednesday, September 25, 2013 from 5:30-8:30 pm, STOP will be holding a very special 20th Anniversary celebration in Washington, DC. And we hope you’ll be with us!
Planning is underway for a beautiful and memorable evening that will celebrate all of STOP’s work during the past 20 years and pay tribute to the people who helped make it happen.
To learn more, and explore corporate/individual sponsorship support opportunities, contact Paula Giovacchini at Paula@STOPFoodborneIllness.org or 773-267-2751.
Look for more details to be shared soon on our website and in other communications. We hope to see you there.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts about what you like, what you’d like to see in the future, and suggestions for improvement.
STOP Foodborne Illness 3759 N. Ravenswood, Suite # 224 Chicago, IL 60613
Phone: 1-773-269-6555 | Fax: 1-773-883-3098 | Email:email@example.com
|© 2012 STOP Foodborne Il|
In an effort to let more people know about our awesome e-Alerts, the threat of foodborne pathogens and antibiotic-resistant superbugs we've run some ads in local news sources. Here's one from February 27th edition of Chicago RedEye:
Happy New Year from all of us at STOP Foodborne Illness!
I hope you had a wonderful time over the holidays enjoying the beauty of the season and treasured time with family and friends.
At STOP, we’ve been reflecting on all that we accomplished together in 2012 and we’ve really hit the ground running in 2013—our very special 20th year serving as your voice for safe food.
On January 4, 2011, President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law (www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/fsma). The tireless work of many of our passionate volunteer advocates together with STOP staff and board members helped this important landmark legislation become reality.
On January 4, 2013, exactly two years after it became law, the FDA issued two new food safety rules – Preventive Controls for Human Food and Standards for Produce Safety – implementing FSMA and helping transform the U.S. food safety system from a reactive to preventive one. STOP is looking forward to providing our feedback to the FDA on the rules during the public comment period over the next few weeks.
Other key areas of our work last year concentrated on advocating for the labeling of mechanically tenderized beef, exploring and discussing the new poultry rule, and addressing the life-threatening issue of Antibiotic Resistant (ABR) foodborne illness. We’ve been especially busy educating consumers about ABR health hazards and recruiting volunteer advocates who’ve been personally impacted by an illness that was antibiotic resistant to share their story and speak about the issue.
Now, looking ahead, we’re doing a lot to make our 20th anniversary year one that’s filled with more positive impact and progress for those we serve. We are very focused on the work that’s needed to meet the goals of our new strategic plan, just completed in the fall of 2012. We’re excited about what the anticipated outcomes will mean for keeping our food safer.
One common thread that runs through everything we do is this: You are helping to make all of our work possible. Through your advocacy, volunteerism, financial support and participation in special projects, your voices and your actions move us forward. Thank you so much for being a part of our caring community dedicated to preventing foodborne illness and helping those affected.
Throughout this, our 20th Anniversary year, I look forward to staying in touch. We’ll be planning special activities to celebrate the past 20 years and pave the way for more progress to come. Along the way, please keep in touch, too. You can reach us on our website at www.stopfoodborneillness.org or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you anytime with thoughts, ideas, suggestions and comments.
Wishing you and your family a very happy and healthy 2013,
Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO
For many of us around the country, the turn of the seasons at this time of year brings some beautiful changes. We’re now enjoying colorful foliage during our drives, cooler temperatures that have us reaching for our cozy turtlenecks, and holiday activities starting soon with the fun (and fright!) of Halloween.
At STOP Foodborne Illness, we’re experiencing some exciting changes, too.
With plans we’re making to grow and do more for those we serve, I’m pleased to announce that Ms. Vanessa Coffman has been added to the STOP staff as our new part-time Education Manager. Vanessa holds a Master of Science in Global Public Health and the Environment from the University of California, Berkeley and brings 4 years of very impressive research and project management experience to her role—including a stint at the Center for Environmental Health investigating the content of heavy metals in household products. She comes to us from her most recent position at the Chicago Department of Health doing work on the West Nile Virus. Vanessa is already hard at work making some important immediate contributions including creation of new fact sheets related to antibiotic resistance that will be widely distributed.
Mingxia Zang has also joined STOP as an intern. She’s a Master of Science student at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the Public Health’s Institute of Food Safety and Health. She’ll be with us two days per week working closely with Stanley and Vanessa.
Stanley Rutledge, a passionate and valuable team member who’s been with us for nearly 2 years, has been promoted to Program Director. Stanley’s work is focused on some key areas including recruiting volunteer advocates, enhancing our e-alert process, improving our website, and developing programs that help achieve strategic and programmatic objectives.
All of us at STOP are focused right now on some top priority areas including exploring the issues surrounding the labeling of mechanically tenderized beef, the release of rules related to the Food Safety Modernization Act, third party inspections, and the proposed HAACP-Based Inspection Models Project.
We look forward to staying in touch with updates and news on all of our work to prevent foodborne illness and keep America’s food supply safe.
As always, we’re very interested in hearing your stories and partnering with you to advance our mission. Contact us anytime at email@example.com or 773.269.6555 to let us know what’s on your mind and how we can help.
I hope you know that we at STOP are deeply grateful for your continued advocacy, involvement and support. We couldn’t do what we do without you.
Wishing you and your family good health and a wonderful fall season,
Nancy Donley quoted below
By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY
Updated 1d 21h ago
Consumers are once again doubting the safety of cantaloupes, a year after a deadly outbreak of food poisoning caused by tainted melons killed at least 30 people and sickened 146 people.
Go here for video coverage of this story.
Agricultural experts say the frequent problems with cantaloupes come from the nature of the melons and sloppy agricultural practices.
In the latest outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, two people have died and 141 have fallen ill in 20 states in a salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated cantaloupe grown in southwestern Indiana. Thirty-one victims have been hospitalized. Both deaths were in Kentucky.
Last year's epidemic was caused by cantaloupes contaminated with listeria, from Colorado's Jensen Farms, according to the CDC.
Food-safety advocate Nancy Donley said she's "hopping mad" over the latest outbreak. "These illnesses and deaths are preventable," said Donley, a spokeswoman for STOP Foodborne Illness. Her group has urged the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to more quickly put out new regulations, based on authority from 2010 legislation. "This shouldn't have happened."
A recent salmonella outbreak has been linked to Indiana cantaloupes. Last year, a listeria outbreak was traced to Colorado cantaloupes.
Bill Marler of the Seattle law firm Marler Clark, which specializes in food-safety law, links cantaloupes to at least 13 salmonella outbreaks since 1990. In the past, many of the outbreaks were linked to melons imported from central America. In recent years, disease outbreaks have been home-grown, Marler says.
"What frustrates me is that I can't believe it's been a year, and we've got 140 people sick and two dead," says Marler, whose law firm represents some of the victims of last year's listeria outbreak.
A cantaloupe's rough, porous skin is an easy target for bacteria, which cling to the bumps on its surface. Bacteria don't stick as easily to the hard, smooth rinds of honeydews and watermelons, says Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University.
Cantaloupes growing on the ground can also pick up dirt and germs from manure that runs off from livestock fields, or from farm workers' unsanitary bathroom practices, Powell says. Throwing cantaloupes into a big wash tub can also lead to contamination, unless farmers regularly check the water's chlorine levels. Farmers also need to ensure that employees wash their hands. And farmers should never use raw manure on their fields, he says.
It's almost impossible for consumers to adequately wash cantaloupes at home, Powell says. The knives used to cut cantaloupes transfer bacteria to the inside.
Powell says preventing outbreaks isn't complicated: "Just pay attention to food safety. The basics have been known for 15 years."
The CDC is advising people who bought cantaloupes grown in southwestern Indiana, where the outbreak began, to throw them away. People should also discard cantaloupe if they're unsure of its source, the CDC says.
When dealing with cantaloupes in general, Powell says people can follow other guidelines to make food safer.
To reduce the risk of illness, Powell says people should refrigerate uneaten portions of cantaloupe immediately.
This article continues at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-08-19/canteloupes-deadly-...
By Liz Szabo, USA TODAY
STOP Spokesperson Nancy Donley quoted below.
By Indy Star reporter Tony Cook
A deadly outbreak of salmonella in cantaloupes is stirring controversy about how transparent state and federal health authorities should be as they investigate the source of food-borne illnesses.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Indiana State Department of Health advised consumers Friday to throw out cantaloupe grown in southwestern Indiana following a salmonella outbreak that killed two people and sickened about 150 people across the country, including 14 people in Indiana.
As a result of initial investigations by Indiana and Kentucky state health officials, an unidentified farm in southwestern Indiana voluntarily contacted its distributors and withdrew its cantaloupe from the market. The farm also agreed to stop shipping the melon for the rest of the growing season.
Some food safety advocates are now calling on health officials to release the name of the farm and stores where its cantaloupes were sold.
"We want every bit of information possible," said Nancy Donley, a spokeswoman with STOP Foodborne Illness, a food safety advocacy group. Her son died in 1993 from E. coli-contaminated ground beef.
"We are very concerned that the health and welfare of businesses can be put at higher priority than that of the public health and safety," she said.
State health officials say they are withholding the name of the farm because the recall was not mandated and the
source of the outbreak remains under investigation. Indiana is the nation's fifth- largest producer of cantaloupe, with more than 2,300 acres harvested in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"We do not have a definitive source for this outbreak," said State Health Commissioner Gregory Larkin in a news release last week. "We are working with other impacted states, as well as our federal partners, to locate the source as quickly as possible. We will, of course, be sharing that information as it is learned."
Amy Reel, a state Health Department spokeswoman, said officials are withholding the farm's name to better protect consumers.
"We don't want to narrow the public's focus when there could be multiple sources," she said. Those sources could include other growers or distributors, she said.
Continue reading this article at IndyStar.com
Bloomberg contributed to this report.
Contact Star reporter Tony Cook at
317-444-6081 and follow him on
(STOP Board Member Colette and STOP Member Dana featured below.)
By Monica Eng
In 2001, 3-year-old Dana Dziadul ate some cantaloupe at a brunch buffet that sent the toddler to the hospital for four days. It was tainted with salmonella bacteria, part of a national outbreak that caused illness and death in 14 states.
Determined to help prevent others from suffering the same fate, Dana and her mother, Colette, are joining other food safety advocates in urging the White House to implement provisions of a federal law that President Barack Obama signed in January 2011.
The Food Safety and Modernization Act ushered in the most sweeping food safety changes in 70 years. But the White House Office of Management and Budget has failed to meet at least three statutory deadlines to review and present rules on new safety standards for high-risk produce and imported foods, among other measures.
Food poisoning is estimated to strike 1 in 6 Americans each year.
"As the mother of a child who almost died and continues to suffer from the consequences of the illness," Dziadul said, "it's frustrating that people are still getting sick in this country because of what they eat, and we are not doing what we need to do to cut down on those illnesses through implementation of these laws."
This morning a broad coalition of food safety advocates, including the Pew Health Group, STOP Foodborne Illness, Center for Science in the Public Interest and Food and Water Watch, plan to call on the Obama White House to respect the deadlines in the name of public health or explain why they are not being met.
This article continues at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-food-safety-20120717,0,2...
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FDA's Food Safety Modernization Act needs funding to protect food supply (Viewpoint)
Published: Friday, June 22, 2012, 6:00 AM
Danielle Favorite By Danielle Favorite
BY KATHY DOPP
Over the past two months, a food-borne illness outbreak linked to salmonella in raw tuna has sickened more than 300 people nationwide — and caused many consumers to second-guess what’s actually in their spicy tuna rolls.
A recent investigation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found filthy conditions in the facility in India that processed the tuna. Perhaps the outbreak should have come as no surprise; a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that food-borne illnesses linked to imported foods are increasing. Sixteen years ago, I learned how real this threat truly is.
As is the case for many primary-school children, my daughter’s celebration of Valentine’s Day was full of paper cards and sweet treats, including a festive slice of strawberry shortcake. When Hallie, then 8, became ill days later — vomiting and crying uncontrollably from pain — we arrived at the hospital to see the familiar faces of her classmates and teachers who had come in with similar symptoms.
STOP member Kathy Dopp
A week later, Hallie was released from the hospital but continued to experience the debilitating effects of a Hepatitis A infection. Her weakened immune system caused her to miss school, give up soccer and dance, and become ostracized by her friends, whose parents kept their children away from her out of fear that she would spread the disease. In the first three years after the incident, Hallie had nine strep and multiple bronchial infections.
We would later learn that the illness that sickened 260 people in our small Michigan town was from frozen strawberries imported from Mexico that were contaminated with Hepatitis A.
Unfortunately, Hallie’s experience is not unique. The CDC estimates that each year, one in six Americans — or 48 million people — suffer from a food-borne illness, resulting in more than 120,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. Without strong safety standards, the number of people who are sickened by contaminated food is likely to increase.
About two-thirds of the fruits and vegetables and 80 percent of the seafood consumed by Americans is imported, and as our global food market continues to expand, so do the dangers. Even more unsettling is the fact that, according to the CDC, the imported food items linked to food-borne illnesses are often unknown or not reported.
In an effort to combat this public health risk, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act into law in January 2011. The legislation is the first major update to food safety oversight in more than 70 years. Under the law, every food manufacturer must frequently look for food safety threats, adopt practices to avoid dangers in food and keep records of those steps that can be reviewed by government inspectors.
Additionally, overseas food suppliers must meet U.S safety standards, and the FDA will be inspecting food manufacturing facilities — especially those abroad — more than ever.
But to do all this work, the FDA must have sufficient resources. The American public overwhelmingly supports strong food safety laws and adequate funding for this core function of government. A nationwide poll conducted last year by the Pew Health Group found that 66 percent of likely voters support additional funding for the FDA to carry out new responsibilities related to food safety and 74 percent believe it is worth a 1-to-3 percent increase in the cost of food to pay for additional protections under the landmark food safety law.
As we enter the summer season — the peak for food-borne illness outbreaks — our families remain at risk from the dangerous and, at times, deadly impacts of contaminated food. With the right safeguards in place, my daughter’s illness could have been prevented.
Kathy Dopp lives in Marshall. Her daughter contracted Hepatitis A as a child, when she ate contaminated strawberries at a school party.
For more Kalamazoo Gazette opinion pieces and letters visit http://www.mlive.com/opinion/kalamazoo/.
© 2012 MLive.com. All rights reserved.