Friday, December 18, 2009

Weekly Round Up

Here is the round up for this week.  A lot of interesting articles and concern for food safety, which is good.  Remember, to receive articles and food safety information and recalls sign up for our S.T.O.P. E-alerts.  Have a great weekend!

26,500 school cafeterias lack required inspections
USA Today article with more coverage on the un-safe conditions in school cafeterias, including the number of schools that fail to have their kitchens inspected enough or even AT ALL.

Va.-based peanut company executives seek bite of $1 million policy
Update on a Lynchburg VA peanut distributor’s executives who are seeking legal fees from their insurance company after a salmonella outbreak caused 714 people to become sick in 46 states and Canada as a result of the outbreak. Infections from the outbreak may have contributed to nine deaths

Two Families Sue Simsbury Dairy, West Hartford Store Over Tainted Raw Milk
This article tells the story of two families’ suing a dairy and grocery store after their children fell sick and suffered kidney failure after consuming contaminated milk.

Congress must pass food-safety rules
A poignant response to John F. Keane’s attack on Senator Kristen Gillibrand’s support for a new approach to food safety.

Raw Oyster and Food Safety Legislation
An update on the recent debate of pasteurizing gulf oysters during the warm months before selling them to consumers, and what that will cost the oyster industry.

Overhaul of U.S. food safety system is overdue
“FDA oversight hasn't had a major revision for more than 50 years. Farms are inspected about once a decade; about 1% of imported food is examined. Congress should act now to protect the public.”—It always feels good to know that others support our cause.  This editorial lays out exactly why the food safety bill needs to be passed.
U.S. opens import food safety center
Progress is being made. The Department of Homeland Security has opened a new Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center (CTAC) in an effort to ensure the safety of foods imported into this country.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Food Safety: STOP Tele-seminar on How to Eat Safely and Stay Healthy This Holiday Season

With H1N1 casting a shadow on all our social interactions, food safety is particularly important this holiday season. Not only do we need to think about how long that egg nog has been sitting on the buffet table – or left on the counter in the kitchen before it was served – we also need to worry about food handling and not passing along Swine Flu.

That’s why S.T.O.P. Is conducting a special tele-seminar on Holiday Foods and Food Safety, next Thursday, December 17 at 3pm ET. Chef Myron “Keith” Norman will join me in a conversation about what to look out for and what questions to ask to help you and your family stay healthy as you attend parties or prepare for festivities at home.

Chef Keith is food safety manager of the South Point Hotel Casino and food safety service instructor at the Art Institute of Nevada. I am executive director of Safe Tables Our Priority, with close to two decades of experience in food safety.

During this event, there will also be a concurrent twittercast at #foodsafety. We’ll also take call-in questions, though we do ask people to send questions beforehand to so that we can have them ready to address during the tele-seminar.

Please let us know if you’ll be joining us by Tuesday, December 15, 2009. You can RSVP to or to

Friday, December 4, 2009

Weekly Round Up

I hope you all had a good week.  We’ve been hustling and bustling over here at S.T.O.P. but we still wanted to give you a heads up on the interesting stories regarding food safety this week.  Here are some articles and blog posts that caught our attention.  Remember to sign up for our free S.T.O.P. E-alerts to get this and more information delivered to your inbox!

Mayo reports on slaughterhouse illness research
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic confirm that 24 illnesses in slaughterhouses were caused by an autoimmune response to a mist of pig brain tissue
Some Premium Edge cat food products recalled; FDA warns dog owners about possible salmonella contamination in Pet Carousel pigs' ears, beef hooves
An article informing cat owners about a voluntary recall of Premium Edge cat food.
How safe is that chicken?
A consumer report article on the amount of pathogens being found in chicken sold in stores and reminding readers to cook chicken properly!
Why a recall of tainted beef didn't include school lunches
School lunches are still very much a hot topic in the food safety world as a recall of tainted beef didn’t include school lunches despite 39 people in 11 different states being reported sick.
UPDATE 1-US warns Tyson on seafood violations at Texas site
Tyson Foods, Inc. has been warned by U.S. regulators about violations in their Texas plant where seafood sauces and soups were “prepared, packed or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have been rendered injurious to health…”
Tales From the Crypt: Gross Food Stories
An interesting (and disgusting) blog post about chicken coop waste being fed to cattle which would then be unsafe for human consumption
Paralyzed Woman Sues Cargill in E. coli Lawsuit for $100,000,000
A legal food safety blog post about a young woman who was left paralyzed by eating a burger tainted by E.coli.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Linda: A Victim of Foodborne Illness

We have been very busy these past few weeks at S.T.O.P.--traveling, fund raising, educating and advocating--all in order to help protect our nation’s food supply.  In spite of all this activity, I never forget why I do this:  to prevent people getting sick from devastating foodborne illnesses that damage lives forever.  I do this for people like Linda, a young woman in her 20’s, who should have the whole world ahead of her. But due to long-term consequences from the E. coli-contaminated meat that she ate when she was 6 years old, her life is different than most women her age.

When she was 6 years old, Linda’s mom took her and her 2 year old brother out to get cheeseburgers for lunch. How could she know that this meal would change their lives forever? Shortly afterward, Linda and her brother became ill with horrible stomach cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting. Her situation worsened and ultimately her kidneys were failing. She was diagnosed with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS) due to E. coli poisoning, and sent to the Children's Hospital. Once admitted, she was given blood transfusions and remained on dialysis for three weeks. She ended up missed two months of first grade, which set her behind in reading for two years.

After several years, her kidneys were functioning at a normal level again.  Aside from suffering from severe depression from junior high to high school, it seemed she had left her experience with E. coli behind her. However, in her senior year of high school she woke up with Bell's Palsy, and spent another week in the hospital where she and was now diagnosed with chronic kidney failure. Her kidneys were functioning at 35% and doctors predicted she would need a kidney transplant by the time she reached her forties. Unfortunately, after a successful year at Art College, she began to feel lethargic and fall behind in her classes only to find that she would need a transplant by the time she graduated.  In October of 2006, her mom donated a kidney to her in a pre-emptive transplant surgery.

The entire ordeal caused her to be two semesters behind in school, terrified about finding health insurance and worried about being able to pay off all her medical bills.  She has to take 12 different medications a day and have her blood drawn once a month.  She had to give up the one job she ever truly loved- working at an animal hospital-  because infection from contact with animals posed too great a risk.  The emotional consequences she’s faced have been immense—low self-esteem from kidney transplant scars and bulges, guilt from feeling that her parents’ divorce was due to stress from her illness, and concern for what the future may hold for her younger brother due to the infection he suffered as well as the effects of watching his sister struggle and go through so many hospitalizations.

At Safe Tables Our Priority we work hard to help victims like Linda; we introduced her to another victim her age with a similar experience, and have assisted and empowered her to tell her story. Our goal is not only to prevent foodborne illness, but also to aid those who have fallen ill.  If you haven’t already done so, sign up for our free S.T.O.P. E-alerts now, and get regular updates on outbreaks and recalled foods in the marketplace in order to keep something like this from happening to you or your family.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Celebrating Our 16th Anniversary of Protecting America’s Food Supply

Safe Tables Our Priority is celebrating our 16th anniversary this holiday season.  We have accomplished so much in the past year, and we’re even more excited about what we plan to accomplish in the future.  Here is a sampling of what we’ve been doing this year and projects that we’ve started:
Created a Victim Helpline: 1-800-350-S.T.O.P.--Begun a Long-term Complications Study that will help us track victims who have suffered long-term consequences--Sent out S.T.O.P.  E-alerts to inform the public about food safety information and recalls--Set up victim matching to provide support--Started consumer coalitions with other consumer groups--Produced a S.T.O.P. Tele-seminar Series--Advocated Food Safety--Updated our website to include more resources for the public, including a Legislative Action Center--Increased our public health presence-- Found a whistleblower for the PCA peanut products outbreak and initiated a plant closing--Launched a social media campaign to better connect with our victims and the general public
We are America’s Voice for Safe Food…. We’re out there helping victims, researching, advocating, and educating on your behalf, every single day.

We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season with good friends, good cheer, and great food made safer by a strong S.T.O.P. organization.  For food safety tips for Thanksgiving and the Holidays, go to our website to check out our Recipe for a Foodsafe Holiday Season.  For more information about food safety and recalls remember to sign up for our S.T.O.P. E- alerts.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Weekly Round Up

We’ve been very busy over at S.T.O.P. due to the Food Safety Modernization Act that just passed through the Senate HELP Committee this week. A lot of the stories and information for this week’s round-up pertain to the bill and people supporting it. You can receive these updates on food safety, plus recalls and more by signing up for our S.T.O.P E-alerts.

U.S. Food Safety Likely to Get Overhaul in 2010
• Reuters article about the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passing the Food Safety Modernization Act. The full Senate probably won’t vote on the bill until 2010.

Food Safety: Another Benefit of Healthy School Lunch Programs?
• A blog post about the lack of food safety in schools and the need for school lunch reform that will help keep kids’ lunch foods safe from contaminants

Wilton family joins Dodd in Calling For Overhaul of Food Safety System
• Haylee Bernstein, a young S.T.O.P. member who was infected by E.coli at the age of three, and her family join Senator Dodd at the HELP Committee session and support the prevention of food supply contamination.

Local Family Knows Foodborne Illness Heartbreak
• A touching story about Nellie Napier, a foodborne illness victim whose entire family has been working with S.T.O.P. on food safety reform this past year.

Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Animal Waste in Faulty Tank
• An informative article about the 2008 salmonella outbreak that was caused by animal waste contamination in a drinking water storage tank.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

S.T.O.P.--An Organization Supporting Victims Suffering From Long-Term Consequences of Foodborne Illness

Recent reports have highlighted what S.T.O.P. has known for a long time: that the long-term consequences of foodborne illness are under-reported, under-diagnosed and not given nearly enough public health attention.  The negative impact of this lack of attention comes in two forms.  First, proper attention and medical care is not given to people who suffer from long-term consequences, such as Guillain Barre Syndrome (paralysis), Reactive Arthritis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS), just to name a few. Second, the effects of these consequences are not being factored into the economic food safety risk equation used to calculate the costs to society by putting food safety prevention measures in place.

Safe Tables Our Priority has over 16 years of experience in assisting and supporting victims of foodborne disease and a large contingency of victims have been telling us about their long-term consequences and frustrations with medical treatment and attention.  These victims have suffered long-term complications due to infections from E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Listeria, Vibrio, Hepatitis A, Shigella, and other foodborne pathogens.  We offer support groups, investigate case studies, and are planning a long-term consequences meeting.

In 2008, S.T.O.P. formalized intake for a long-term consequences database and anyone can contact us and join. If you would like to join our registry, call S.T.O.P. at 1-800-350-STOP, or email us at: You can also still get information on food safety and food recalls by signing up for our S.T.O.P. E-alerts.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weekly Round Up

There is a wealth of news and articles about food safety that contain a lot of interesting and useful information.  Here are some links I’ve come across this week that I think are valuable reads.

Details about the markup of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act scheduled for November 18

A well-stated argument on the importance of protecting our kids from foodborne illnesses

Washington Post article with additional information about the controversy over treating oysters harvested from warm waters to kill the bacterium vibrio vulnificus
An informative article discussing how E.coli actually gets into our meat

Informative piece on the new FDA code for regulating the retail and foodservice segment of the food industry
Keeping Food Safe Ahead of the Holidays
With the holidays coming up, there is tons of food preparation going on. This post has a few great tips on keeping your food and family safe!
Tainted food surprisingly deadly in adults
This shocking article discusses the enormous number of annual deaths due to contaminated food.

For more information and articles about food safety and food recalls delivered right to your inbox, please be sure to sign up for our S.T.O.P E-alerts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Only Good Oyster is a Safe Oyster

It never ceases to amaze me how business interests have more sway with Congress than good, protective food safety measures. 

Two weeks ago, the FDA finally did the right thing and told the shellfish industry that, starting in 2011, gulf coast oysters would have to be post-harvest processed to kill the deadly bacteria vibrio vulnificus that they harbor in summer months. Vibrio vulnificus is fatal to 50% of those it infects, and causes devastating illness and loss of limbs in those lucky enough to survive it. Anyone who eats raw oysters and has diabetes, liver problems, AIDS, or cancer is particularly susceptible to the bacteria. Since 1995, 225 people have died simply from eating raw oysters.

The new FDA regulation would save at least 15-30 lives a year in the United States. Unfortunately, the oyster industry has convinced several members of Congress that the mere two cents per oyster it would take to make the seafood safe would be a hardship for the industry. They are now putting forth legislation to fight the FDA and reverse the ruling. 

If you're going to enjoy oysters raw, the only good one is a safe one.

Until our legislative officials get it right and realize that public health and saving lives trumps spending a few pennies more for a safer product, you can protect yourself by finding out what foods are making people sick. For information about recalls due to vibrio in oysters, as well as for all other contaminated foods, you can sign up for S.T.O.P. E-alerts.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sydney and Cole: Victims of Foodborne Illness

Working with victims of foodborne disease at  S.T.O.P, I’ve heard many stories about people that just break my heart.  But, the ones that hit me hardest are those involving children.  The story of two triplets, Sydney and Cole, who contracted Salmonellosis , shows not only the dangers of foodborne illness but also the great  strain and stress that can accompany a foodborne illness as a parent wonders what they did wrong. 
In late April, two-year old Sydney became very sick with a fever of over 105 degrees for days.  On top of that she was experiencing diarrhea which soon became bowel movements full of blood.  She couldn’t eat or stay hydrated and sharp, painful cramps kept her awake at night as well as diaper rash so severe that her skin was broken and blistered.  One week later, her brother Cole started developing the same symptoms.  Lab reports confirmed that both children had Salmonella.  Their parents are brother Michael were tested, and fortunately the tests came back negative, but Sydney and Cole had to be kept isolated from their brother and all other children so as not to spread the illness.  
This meant no birthday parties, no trips to the pool and no visitors at the house—total isolation for three months.  Finally in late June, the family learned that the Salmonella poisoning came from a snack food called Veggie Booty.  It was in a spice that Veggie Booty imports from China. Sydney and Cole’s parents had no idea that this supposedly gourmet and high-priced product located in the organic section of the grocery store was getting ingredients from China. They had truly believed they were buying safe, healthy snacks for their children.  While it was a relief for them to know that they weren’t responsible for giving their children Salmonella poisoning, they still felt the need to do something to make a change.  That’s when they contacted us at S.T.O.P. and asked how they could help.  S.T.O.P. educates families about food safety and smarter ways to handle and prepare food.  In the triplets case, we reiterated to them that this whole situation was not their fault.  
While we are working to advocate changes in public policy and prevent illness from foodborne pathogens, our work is far from done.  Until that day comes, people need to educate themselves.  Please sign up for our S.T.O.P. E-alerts, which provide timely information delivered right to your email about current food recalls and outbreaks. Sign up here:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Produce Safety Project and S.T.O.P. Release Report on State Surveillance of Foodborne Illnesses

There is a large burden of foodborne illness in the United States with approximately 76 million people falling ill every year (that’s 1in 4 Americans) from largely preventable food contamination.  Fixing the problem is dependent on knowing where the problem starts and which foods from what producers are making us sick.  Ultimately, then, the ability to control food poisoning starts with the public health department and their ability to find out what a person ate when they have a diagnosed case of foodborne disease. 

Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.) has been supporting victims of foodborne illness for the last 16 years and has heard firsthand how terribly inconsistent we are at interviewing and collecting this vital information when people get sick from food.  The public health system can not find what it isn’t looking for or asking about.  Today, a survey is being released that will shed some light on this important topic. 

The survey was commissioned by the Produce Safety Project (PSP), an initiative of the The Pew Charitable Trusts at Georgetown University, and conducted by S.T.O.P.  39 of the 51 state and DC health departments responded to our survey which asked about the types of questions asked of foodborne illness victims, the time frame in which they were completed, and how states collected, stored, and shared the resulting 2007 data. 

We learned some interesting things.  Despite the increase in large national outbreaks linked to fresh produce recently, our data show that only 25 of 39 states asked victims about specific produce items, even if that produce was associated with a large recent outbreak.  Only 23 of 39 states are able to electronically link their foodborne illness intake data for analysis.  The lessons learned from this survey data will hopefully encourage states to develop best practices, leading to better identification of outbreaks and fewer illnesses and deaths. 

To read the executive summary and full report, visit
To sign up for S.T.O.P. E-alerts and get food recall and outbreak information delivered to your email inbox, visit

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Progress Towards FDA Food Safety Reform—Not A Moment Too Soon

Progress Towards FDA Food Safety Reform—Not A Moment Too Soon

For the first time since my daughter's best friend died from  E.coli O157:H7, I am finally starting to feel that we are making progress towards comprehensive FDA food safety reform.  Last week the U.S. Senate held its first hearing on S.510, Senator Durbin’s bipartisan bill that updates our ancient food safety system. At Safe Tables Our Priority (, we work closely with many wonderful families that have suffered needlessly from contaminated food.  Senators have finally acknowledged those families' pain and anguish, in many cases noting that these tragic stories were the impetus for their commitment to better protecting American families. The following is a roll call of sorts from the hearing:
  • Senator Brown (D-OH) discussed Nellie Napier, who had a large extended family in Ohio and was the last person to die from tainted peanut butter during the PCA outbreak.
  • Senator Franken (D-MN) shared Shirley Almer’s story, a 72-year-old woman who survived cancer twice -- only to be killed from Salmonella in peanut butter. Her son, Jeff, has been become a vocal advocate for change in his mother's name. Shirley's case helped the Minnesota health department figure out the outbreak.. If the appropriate mechanisms had been in place, others would be alive today.
  • Senator Dodd (D-CT) acknowledged Haylee Bernstein, who at age 3 was nearly killed by E.coli in lettuce. More than ten years later, Haylee still suffers from health problems related to her near-fatal incident with food contamination.
  • Senator Durbin (D-IL) has always credited S.T.O.P. President Nancy Donley with teaching him about the severe shortcomings of our food safety system after her own son Alex died in 1993 from eating tainted hamburger meat. Durbin also spoke of Marian Westover, an 80-year-old S.T.O.P. member who nearly died from E.coli in spinach more recently.
Please help stop future suffering and urge your Senator to vote on this bill before the end of the year by clicking here. And help protect yourself and your family by signing up for e-alerts that keep you informed about current food recalls and outbreaks:

Friday, October 23, 2009

Food Poisoning Is Serious Business – People Become Disabled and Even Die

My life changed overnight in 1992 when my then-6-year-old daughter’s best friend Lauren was the first child to die from eating a hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 in the Jack in the Box outbreak. You probably don’t know what it’s like to watch someone die from the E. coli pathogen, but it is excruciatingly horrible. Lauren’s mom confided in me how it was a blessing when she slipped into a coma because at least then she wasn’t screaming in pain.

Not only did my young daughter lose her best friend, we all lost our innocence. Until that moment, I had no idea that we are all playing a game of Russian Roulette with our food. Any one of us at any time could be feeding our families contaminated meats or vegetables or fruit. While paying attention to safe preparation and handling can help, we cannot totally scrub, disinfect or cook our way to safety – these pathogens are in the food, end of story. Our kitchens should not be biohazard zones.

How can it be that in the 21st century, living in the most scientifically advanced nation on earth, one in four people fall ill from foodborne illness every year? Quite simply, our regulatory system is not up to the job. Right now the FDA inspects domestic food facilities on average of once every 10 years. Imported products are only inspected at the rate of one percent a year.

To honor Lauren’s memory and the close to 5,000 Americans who die every year from largely preventable foodborne disease, I have become the executive director of S.T.O.P.- Safe Tables Our Priority,
a foodborne illness prevention and advocacy organization that works with hundreds of families every year who have lost loved ones due to tainted foods. We also support hundreds more who survived their initial illness, but are facing difficult long-term consequences.

You’ve seen the headlinesSalmonella-contaminated peanut butter, imported spices, sprouts, E.coli-laden meat, spinach, lettuce and cookie dough, Listeria-tainted deli meats, smoked fish and cheeses. And we’re not talking about a few days of problems – there can be serious long-term health effects, and people die.

That why it’s important to speak up, to share information and help the public understand that foodborne illness is serious. If you have a personal story, please share it with us at

In the meantime, you can keep up and best protect your family by signing up for S.T.O.P. E-alerts, which provides timely information delivered right to your email about current food recalls and outbreaks. Sign up here.