Several months ago, my life was changed forever when I fell severely ill after eating imported ricotta cheese contaminated by the dangerous bacteria Listeria. Protections in a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) law could help prevent infections, like mine, from harming other Americans. But they need to be fully implemented to help anyone.
What began as severe pain and a 102-degree fever on Aug. 28 turned into a trip to the emergency room, 16 days in the hospital and several weeks of intravenous antibiotic treatments from home. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year 3,000 Americans die from foodborne illness.Knowing that, I feel lucky to have survived.
It’s been roughly two years since President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act into law. This legislation, the first major update to our food-safety system since the Great Depression, signaled a much-needed shift in FDA’s approach from reaction to prevention.
Earlier this year, the FDA issued draft rules under the law that set preventive measures for processed foods and more stringent standards for produce aimed at reducing the threat posed by several possible sources of contamination. However, the Obama administration has yet to issue a proposal that holds importers responsible for the safety of the food that crosses our borders — like the cheese that almost cost me my life.
This extremely important measure needs to be issued as soon as possible and would ensure that foreign foods are held to stringent safety standards comparable to those for American products.