Sitting on yet another airplane coming from yet another case where a US consumer – this one another child – was poisoned by yet another food – I missed Phil Brasher’s call as he was preparing his story, “D.C. lawmakers feel pressure to strengthen food safety rules.”
Mr. Brasher covered another former client of mine who suffered “[a] near-death experience after eating E. coli-tainted lettuce [that] turned Karen Hibben-Levi into an activist for changing the way the government regulates food safety.”
She met with Senator Tom Harkin, and as Mr. Brasher said:
No one in the Senate is better positioned to do something about the legislation than Harkin. The Democrat recently took over the chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Hibben-Levi wanted him to act on the bill.
Karen got a chance to ask Senator Harkin when he is going to move the food safety legislation – legislation that has already passed the House:
"Is it feasible that there’s a chance of being done yet this year?" Hibben-Levi asked Harkin.
She didn’t hear the answer she was looking for.
The Senate has been bogged down in the debate over health care reform, and Harkin said his staff is tied up working on other must-pass bills. He said he hoped to have the committee take up the bill in December, but he assured her the issue wouldn’t die.
"We’re going to get it done," he said.
Interestingly, just a few weeks ago, the Washington Post profiled one of my clients, Linda Rivera. She is still hospitalized after consuming E. coli-tainted cookie dough. That story prompted this letter from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid:
Dear Rivera Family:
I want to express my personal thoughts and prayers to you as you struggle with Linda’s illness. I hope you will keep your faith strong and your hopes up that Linda will recover and find peace and comfort.
I want you to know that the seriousness of Linda’s illness highlights the need for action to improve our food safety laws and inspection systems. This fall, I plan to bring food safety legislation before the Senate so that we can strengthen our laws, better detect food borne pathogens, and better trace our food supply. As I work on this legislation it will be with the goal of ensuring that more families do not suffer as you do now.
Best wishes to you, Linda and your entire family.
It does set up a question – "If not now, when?"