April’s E. coli O145 outbreak linked to Freshway romaine lettuce caused a lot of suffering, but it may also be a necessary impetus for change . . . or at least a vote, by the Senate, on S 510 a/k/a "Food Safety Modernization Act."  Congressman John Dingell, D-Mich., who recently conducted a telephone briefing involving several victims of the Freshway outbreak and the Dole baby spinach outbreak, said that the Freshway E. coli O145 outbreak underscores the critical need for food safety reform–more specifically, giving the FDA the resources to act preventatively, rather than just responsively, in its approach to foodpoisoning outbreaks.  

The illness of Andrew Lekas was front and center on Congressman Dingell’s telephone breifing.  According to the Katreas Stafford at the Eastern Echo, Andrew Lekas, a recent graduate of the University of Michigan,

became sick after consuming a burrito containing lettuce at a restaurant in Ann Arbor. He refused to name the restaurant and said the Washtenaw County Health Department is conducting an investigation into the situation.

Lekas said he wasn’t aware of how serious and necessary food reform is.

“It was only a few weeks ago that I became aware of how outdated our food safety system is,” he said.

The restaurant he ate at was a regular place him and his friends attended.

“The week I got sick, I had eaten twice at that same restaurant,” Lekas said.

When he was sick, he missed classes and was unable to leave his dorm room.

“If it weren’t for taking extra credits in previous semesters, the illness could have jeopardized my academic career,” Lekas said.

One of the other participants at Congressman Dingell’s briefing was Elizabeth Armstrong, mother of Ashley Armstrong, a young girl who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) after being infected by E. coli O157:H7 in the Dole baby spinach outbreak.  We represented the Armstrong family for Ashley’s injuries.  Below is a short video about her illness.