Make Our Food Safe
09/18/2013

"Bellevue Mom to Tell FDA How Tainted Food Nearly Killed Her"

The Seattle Times | Kyung M. Song

"For three days after Merrill Behnke ate the tainted Italian cheese — before she was admitted to Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue for 16 days, before she racked up $60,000 in medical bills and almost died — she felt fine.
 
On the fourth night, Behnke developed an intense headache. She awoke the next morning to severe body pains and a temperature of 102 degrees. A lumbar tap and a CT scan indicated meningitis. A test of her spinal fluid linked the illness to Listeria, a rare but deadly bacterium.
 
Public-health officials later traced the germ to its source: Frescolina Marte brand ricotta salata cheese, bought by her father-in-law in August 2012 at a Whole Foods in Tigard, Ore., south of Portland.

Behnke, 31, will recount her bout with food poisoning in Washington, D.C., Thursday at a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hearing on how to ensure that foods from abroad are safe."

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"Behnke is one of five people being flown in to testify at the expense of The Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit foundation involved in various public-policy issues. Their testimonies are meant to counter objections from food processors and importers to tightened oversight.
 
Joining Behnke will be four people from a different outbreak this summer that sickened 161 people who developed hepatitis after eating Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend of frozen fruit. The fruit mix, which was sold at Costco and other stores, contained pomegranate seeds from a Turkish importer suspected of carrying the hepatitis A virus.
 
Of the 21 others from a dozen states who fell ill with the same Listeria strain as Behnke, four died. It was one of three Listeria outbreaks in the United States since 2011, one of which involved cantaloupes from a Colorado farm and led to 33 deaths and one miscarriage."

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