A local woman is part of a group representing 27 victims who fell ill as a result of contaminated peanut products in early 2009.
One year after the foodborne-illness outbreak, the group is calling on congressional lawmakers to keep their promise to implement food-safety reform.
“Americans cannot afford to wait for another outbreak for Congress to pass food safety legislation that protects families from facing the same hardships we have faced,” said Jill Summers, the mother of Makayla Stephens, a victim from Quapaw. “It took over a month after Makayla first got sick for there to even be a recall on the products. No one in America should have to worry whether the food they eat and feed their families will make them sick.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), peanut butter and peanut paste contaminated with Salmonella Typhimurium resulted in nine deaths and over 700 illnesses in 46 states, with many more cases never reported to the CDC. Thousands of items—such as cookies, crackers, candy, and ice cream—that contained Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) peanut products were eventually recalled.
A letter was sent exactly one year to the day after a major announcement in which The Kellogg Company put a hold on two popular brands of peanut butter crackers because of potential contamination. That action came two days after Minnesota state officials confirmed a genetic match between the strains of Salmonella bacteria found in a container of King Nut brand creamy peanut butter and those associated with 30 illnesses in Minnesota and nearly 400 illnesses nationwide.
President Barack Obama and leaders from both parties in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have called for action on food safety and, according to a poll commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts, nine out of 10 Americans favor legislation to strengthen food-safety laws. The bills in Congress—which would establish minimum inspection frequencies, require that food processors establish food safety plans, and grant FDA mandatory recall authority—would shift the agency’s regulatory approach from reaction to prevention, said Newswire.
Had these provisions been in place before the peanut product outbreak, PCA would have been required to develop a food safety plan, which would have identified the risks of contamination and implemented steps to minimize them. Also, the FDA would have been inspecting the plant regularly and should have discovered and required remediation of some of the horrific conditions sited at the plant including a leaky roof, rodent droppings, and unclean surfaces.
The January 14 letter from the victims and family members from 22 states notes the need for a strong, comprehensive food safety reform law and can be obtained at: www.makeourfoodsafe.org.