Nobody can speak more authoritatively about the risks of foodpoisoning than those who have succumbed to severe illness in large outbreaks, and had there lives permanently changed as a result.  Barb Pruitt will not be in Washington DC next week to speak with key senators and staffers on the importance of new food safety legislation, but hers is certainly a voice that needs to be heard as well.

A little background first.  Barb was infected by Salmonella typhimurium in an 2009 outbreak ultimately linked to lettuce from Salinas valley California.  Barb’s illness very quickly became life-threatening because the bacteria caused the tissues in her gastrointestinal tract to die, leading to a perforation of her small intestine that allowed the bacteria to escape into her bloodstream.  She ultimately had to be life-flighted to a major medical center, where she underwent emergency surgery to remove approximately four feet of her small intestine.  She has spent over a month in the hospital, and has endured constant, severe gastrointesinal problems ever since as a result of her inability to properly digest foods due to the loss of her small intestine.  Barb’s problems, including multiple days a week where she suffers 15-20 bouts of diarrhea, are permanent.

Senator Harry Reid, who has spoken with food safety victims in the past seeking passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, and every other senator and staffer who can help get the bill, S 510, to the floor for a vote, need to know about Barb.  Her illness was caused by a product, lettuce, that is regulated by the FDA; and its certainly possible that earlier action on the Food Safety Modernization Act would have helped to prevent her life from being permanently changed.  At the very least, action on S 510 now will help others avoid what Barb has gone through. 

Barb Pruitt’s Statement to the Senate:

First, let me make it clear that I have no authority or expertise in the field of foodborne illnesses, however; I am a survivor of Salmonella poisoning and can speak from experience. I speak for ALL that have experienced, could experience, or have died from food poisoning. In addition, I speak for those that are left disabled for life, such as me, due to the inadequacies and failures within our food industries. I choose to be the voice for us all.

If I were to personally stand before you today, I would implore you to please pursue the vote for the Food Safety Modernization Act. The Act will enable increased authority for the FDA and food regulations will be more effective. What I like best is that the Act would require preventative programs. It is clear that the regulations we currently have in place are not followed nor are they effective. The Food Safety Modernization Act would provide necessary modification of and improved regulations. Food poisoning is preventable, let us enforce it.

As citizens, we should not be fearful of the food that we consume. We are hard working Americans who spend our hard working money on life’s necessities – FOOD. We should NOT under any circumstances fear the consumption of our food; we assume and TRUST that our food is prepared with quality and that it is SAFE. No one ever assumes that their next bite of food may sicken them or worse yet kill them, leaving families destroyed and experiencing financial devastation with medical bills.

The failure in our system is that producers focus on quantity rather than quality. They have the ability to focus on quantity rather than quality because our current structured food regulations are failing. We have the power to change that. We must stand together and apply strict regulations and by all means ENFORCE them. We have to give authority where necessary to preserve human life and quality of life.

When a food product is produced and sent to the public, when tainted, millions of unsuspecting people may be facing a death sentence or lifetime disabilities. It is not like a piece of clothing that has been sewn incorrectly so therefore it is sold at a discount store. This is food we are talking about. Our food, more often than not, is not tested for quality until it is consumed by the public. There is no taking it back once it has been eaten and someone falls prey to illness.

Every case of foodborne illness is a case of a failure in our food industry reguations and a lack of regard for human life as producers are able to ignore current regulations and push for quantity rather than quality. It is sad that we have come to the point of actually having to babysit our food supply, not only on a local level but worldwide; we must also be strict with our incoming food as well. All food must be produced with the mindset that EVERY human life is valuable.

I urgently ask you to please vote on this Act and pass it. Stronger regulations, increased involvement from authorities, and preventative programs are a necessity. I know I am but only one voice, but I hope that I am ultimately a strong, and unfortunately very experienced, voice.