CU Activist Peter Hurley Fighting Hard for Food Safety
By Consumers Union on Thursday, February 11th, 2010
Peter Hurley whose son Jacob got ill from Peanut Butter, has been a fierce advocate for food safety reform. He has been working really hard to get his message out there lately. The above video is from FoodSupplyChainSafety.com .
Help Peter and Jacob in their fight by emailing your Senators and tell them to pass S. 510 now.
Check out his piece in the Huffington Post:
Until a year ago, I barely took note when news of another contaminated
food outbreak scrawled across my television screen. But everything
changed almost exactly a year ago, when our then three-year-old son,
Jacob, was poisoned with Salmonella.
Jake came down with flu-like symptoms in January 2009. We cared for him
as such until we noticed blood in his diarrhea. We took him to the
pediatrician who dutifully ran tests of his stool sample. As we waited
for the lab results we were encouraged by the pediatrician’s office to
give him food if he would eat it and keep it down. We were given the
green light by our doctor for him to eat his favorite comfort snack
food: Austin Toasty Crackers with Peanut Butter, manufactured by
Jake was sick for 11 days and eventually got better; but we were
devastated to find out thereafter that while he was sick, we had
unknowingly been continuing to feed him the very food that had poisoned
him. It was not until 15 days after he became ill that we found out
that he had become one of the more than 700 Americans from 46 states to
be sickened by a major outbreak of Salmonella-contaminated peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA)-which ultimately killed at least nine people.
Over time, we came to find out the outbreak was not just a random
occurrence, but a part of a pattern of outbreaks impacting tens of
millions of Americans every year. Like many Americans who are impacted
by foodborne illness, I was shocked to find out that the nation’s
food-safety system is based, in large part, on century-old laws.
Furthermore, the agency charged with overseeing about 80 percent of the
U.S. food supply–the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–inspects
domestic food-processing facilities on average only once every 10
years. In the area of inspections, as well as other components of our
food-safety system, the laws and regulations are severely lacking and
simply unsatisfactory in successfully managing what has evolved into a
complex global food supply.
Americans were alarmed by the peanut product outbreak. Over 3,000
products were recalled–one of the largest single food recalls in U.S.
history. Outraged lawmakers convened hearings and promised to implement
meaningful food-safety reforms. President Barack Obama and
Congressional leaders from both parties have called for action.
According to a bipartisan poll commissioned by The Pew Charitable
Trusts, nine out of 10 Americans favor legislation to strengthen our
food-safety laws. Yet, here we are, one year after the outbreak was
identified, and Americans are still waiting for Congress to enact
comprehensive FDA food-safety legislation.
Since Jake’s illness, we have become food-safety advocates. Last year,
Jake and I testified at the PCA Congressional hearing. We later
returned to D.C. to meet with Congressmen Walden and Schrader to
discuss and lobby for the House of Representatives’ Food Safety
Enhancement Act of 2009 (H.R. 2749). The House has since passed this
bill. Jake and I then returned to D.C. for a third time to meet with
Oregon’s Senators Merkley and Wyden’s staff to push for the passage of
the Senate’s version of the bill, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
(S. 510). We’re headed to D.C. next week to lobby for food-safety
Recently, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor &
Pensions unanimously approved S. 510. This bill is strongly supported
by Senators on both sides of the aisle–something that is not often
seen in Washington these days. This says to me that the time has come
to make food safety a priority and enact sweeping changes to the
nation’s food oversight system.
Last month–on the anniversary of the peanut butter outbreak–many of
the victims of food borne illness, including myself, wrote a letter
to lawmakers, asking them to keep their promise of reform. My son’s
firsthand account is a painful reminder that despite continued
outbreaks–from peanut butter, hazelnuts, fresh fruits and vegetables,
to cookie dough, and many other foods–Congress has yet to pass
Had legislation been in place a year ago, things could have been
different for Jake and for tens of thousands of other Americans. The
legislation under consideration shifts the FDA’s regulatory approach
from reaction to prevention, establishes minimum inspection frequencies
for processing plants and requires processors to establish food-safety
plans. If these measures had been in effect, PCA would have been
required to develop a food-safety plan and FDA would have been
inspecting its plants more frequently. Instead, hundreds were sickened,
dozens will have life long health issues, and nine families have lost a
It is outrageous that a company and its employees could knowingly allow
tainted product to go out the door and into the nation’s food supply,
as it appears PCA did. We need to strengthen the FDA and its ability to
oversee our food supply. Without doing so, the outbreaks of
contaminated food are sure to continue, causing millions more Americans
to suffer the devastating and sometimes fatal consequences. We were
lucky–it could have been very different for us. On behalf of all
Americans, our whole family, Jake and I ask that our government be
given the power to put our public health and food-safety first. The
American people deserve better; as a nation, we cannot continue to let
Historic reform to protect Americans is in sight. I am asking my
Senators Merkley and Wyden to urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to
bring S. 510 to the floor for a vote as soon possible. I’m asking you
do the same with your senators. The longer it takes Congress to pass
this comprehensive legislation, the more consumer confidence in our
food supply will erode, and the more people will get sick.