Honestly, I have lost track how often I have done the back and forth to “the other Washington” over the last several years. For the longest time (when the Republicans held the House and Senate) nothing moved on food safety issues and walking the halls of the House and Senate was beside the point. That changed with the Spinach E. coli outbreak of 2006 that sickened over 200 and killed five; followed by lettuce E. coli outbreaks in the Midwest and Northeast that sickened hundreds. The following April, following a Salmonella peanut butter outbreak that left over 750 sickened, I brought three families to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. The hearing was held on my youngest daughter’s birthday (which I had forgotten about) yet, we turned the flight to D.C., the three hour hearing and a trip to the zoo into something she still remembers. The following year, after other outbreaks, the Subcommittee even asked me to testify. Then there was the Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella outbreak in 2009 that sickened 700 and killed at least nine. I was at that Subcommittee hearing too watching Stewart Parnell take the 5th and my clients testify again. That was followed by a E. coli cookie dough outbreak that sickened eighty. Of course, with another outbreak in 2010, this time Salmonella in eggs sickening 1,800 and causing the recall of 500,000,000 eggs, the Subcommittee had even more villains and more victims (those too my clients).
From these tragedies came H.B. 2749 and S. 510 (with the Tester/Hagen Amendment) which is now H.B. 3082 and heading this next week to the Senate for a vote. I hope to be there to see it happen. And, to cut my Christmas vacation short to watch the President sign the Bill into law. Is this Bill perfect, no, but it is a start to try and stem the tide of large-scale outbreaks that cost our economy billions of dollars and families incalculable pain and suffering. This is not the end, but the beginning of the end.