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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Senator Reid Steps up on Food Safety – Pass the Linda Rivera Food Safety Act Now

Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following remarks on the Senate floor this morning to urge swift passage of food safety legislation. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

PH2009083103931.jpg“No one in America should have to worry if their salad or sandwich is going to kill them. No one in the Senate should prey on that fear, or play with it like a political football.

“People often think of food poisoning as an upset stomach that goes away in a few hours or a day. And sometimes, yes, that’s all it is. But sometimes it is much worse.

“I have met with families who have been seriously sickened by the food they’ve eaten – people who were hospitalized for weeks and months and came very close to death. In some cases, they will deal with the results of their food poisoning for the rest of their lives.

“I’ve told, in this chamber, the story of a girl named Rylee Gustafson from Henderson, Nevada. When she was 9 years old, she ate a salad that almost killed her. There was spinach in that salad, and E. coli in that spinach. Rylee got seriously ill and went to the hospital. Three others who got E.coli from fresh spinach died.

“I’ve also told the story of the Rivera Family from Las Vegas. Linda Rivera ingested E. coli from some cookie dough. Soon, she was in a coma.

“Then, just a few days ago, the CDC alerted us to another E. Coli outbreak. Thirty-seven Americans have gotten sick from a brand of cheese sold in the West, including two in Nevada.

“So why have we waited this long to make our food safer? Why are we still playing these games? The answer is nothing more than politics. It’s shameful. And it should end today.”

On the Tester Amendment compromises in the work:

· Language has been added that gives FDA authority to withdraw an exemption from a farm or facility that has been associated with a foodborne illness outbreak.

· The distance from a facility or farm that is eligible to be a “qualified end-user” has been reduced from 400 miles to 275 miles.

· Language clarifying that farmers’ market sales are “direct-to-consumer” for FDA’s purposes has been revised to avoid creating unintended consequences (the effect is the same).

The Tester Amendment may still make it into the managers’ amendment, but there’s a chance it will go to the floor as an Amendment, but with the support of the bill’s authors (Durbin, et al), and without opposition from consumer groups.  No word from Industry groups.

Again, my problem with the Tester Amendment is that it allows for the sale directly from farms into the wholesale market without the oversight of the balance of the Bill.  Bottomline, if you sell into the broader stream of commerce (as opposed to on farm sales and sales to restaurants, farmer’s markets and grocery stores), you need to play by the same rules.  In this area, one size should fit all.