On Wednesday, May 19, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) joined victims of foodborne illness and a public health expert to discuss the recent nationwide E. coli outbreak and the need for swift passage of the U.S. Senate bill S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510).
The U.S. House of Representatives passed its food-safety bill (H.R. 2749) last July, and late in 2009, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions unanimously approved S. 510.
Participants in the briefing included Andrew Lekas, of Bloomfield Hills, MI, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan who became a victim of the E. coli outbreak linked to bagged lettuce; Elizabeth Armstrong, of Fishers, IN, whose now 5-year-old daughter Ashley Armstrong got sick from contaminated spinach when she was a toddler and suffers from kidney and other related health problems; and Dr. Craig Hedberg of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 76 million new cases of food-related illness - resulting in 5,000 deaths and 325,000 hospitalizations - occur in the United States annually. Continuing outbreaks every year show that this is not a problem that is going away. Additionally, a recent study - "Health-Related Costs from Foodborne Illness in the United States" - by a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) economist estimates the health-related costs of foodborne illness across the nation to be a combined $152 billion annually.