Congress held hearings on Tuesday to examine the future role of the government in protecting food safety. Members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee met with families affected by the latest epidemic of foodborne illness to discuss federal regulations of the country’s food reserve.
"I can't protect them from spinach — only you guys can. I can't," said Michael Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong and his wife, Elizabeth were accompanied by their daughters Ashley, 3, and Isabella, 5 both of whom had become severely ill after eating a salad made with a bag of leafy greens contaminated by E. coli in September of 2006. During the outbreak, at least two hundred people were known to be infected including 31 people who suffered kidney failure and three deaths as a result of the bacterium.
In February of 2007, Peter Pan brand peanut butter was the focus of a nationwide recall after a salmonella outbreak that causing serious illness to over 425 people. One of those taken ill was Mora Lou Marshall, 85, who has been hospitalized or in a nursing home since she became seriously ill from eating the tainted peanut butter, which she kept on her nightstand to supplement her diet and inadvertently continued to eat after falling ill.
“Food poisonings will happen to you, to me and to our children and our pets," said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., chairman of the subcommittee. "The American people expect and deserve better from its government."
Bipartisan members of the board voiced agreement with concerns made by the families present and are on board for making changes to the current system. Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado has introduced legislation that would give the FDA and Agriculture Department the authority to mandate recalls. House Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro, chairperson of the Appropriations subcommittee, said the committee is poised to cut off 2008 salaries for the FDA’s top managers in the upcoming spending bill unless officials immediately detail how food inspections, recalls and standards will be improved.