Header graphic for print
Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The Doctor, Sanjay Gupta, tries to get the Senate to move forward on Food Safety

Here is the transcript from Dr. Gupta’s recent show on Health:

Welcome to a place where you can learn how to live longer and stronger. I’m your doctor. I’m also your coach.  First up, an exclusive story: Imagine a woman who almost died — why — because she ate raw cookie dough. Foodborne illnesses that becoming increasingly more common — just how dangerous are they? We’ll tell you. ..

Let’s get started.

GUPTA:  Your food — you’re expected to be safe and the United States House has passed a food safety bill. The Senate is still in limbo on this. But I can tell you, it’s become an urgent matter, which is why we’re talking about it today.

In fact, just in the past two weeks, the CDC has been investigating a multi-state salmonella outbreak from frozen dinners. It sickened 37 people in 18 states.

Also, the USDA has reported a recall of 35,000 pounds of ground beef. Why? Due to possible E. coli contamination.

You know, these aren’t just statistics. Foodborne illnesses like this can kill you and possibly make you very sick.

Linda Rivera did something that perhaps we have all done at one point or another. She took a little bite of raw cookie dough. But what happened to her after that is something that really no one could have predicted.

Here’s our exclusive interview.

GUPTA:   Linda Rivera was living the good life — a mother, wife, a special ed assistant. Linda was happy and healthy. But all of that changed in May of 2009.

LINDA RIVERA, FOOD POISONING VICTIM:  I felt like I had that cold, the flu, something like that.

GUPTA:  In fact, Linda got so sick her husband took her to the emergency room. There she was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and sent home.

But the thing is: she didn’t get any better.

RICHARD RIVERA, LINDA’S HUSBAND:  And I asked her if she’s OK. And she said, "No, if I have to go through this one more day, I’ll die." So, we took her in.

GUPTA:  The doctors told her she had contracted E. coli OH-157. That’s a dangerous foodborne illness that can attack organs. The E. coli had settled into her colon and doctors now had to remove it. A few days later, Linda was told what gave her E. coli.

L. RIVERA:  Our attorney called us and said that it was cookie dough. I usually use a big tub, make lots of cookies at one time. Just a couple of bites, that’s all it took.

BILL MALER, RIVERA’S ATTORNEY:  The reality is, about 60 percent, 65 percent of everybody who buys these products admits that they eat it raw. Seventy-six thousand people get E. coli O1587 every year, between 50 and 100 deaths every year. So in the scheme of bugs, it’s — it’s a relatively low number, but it’s a really nasty, nasty bug.

GUPTA:  For a whole year, Linda had lots of problems. Her kidneys shut down. She couldn’t walk or talk. She went into cardiac arrest.

Three times, she was almost given her last rights. But she never gave up.

L. RIVERA:  OK. For 15 minutes …

GUPTA:  Now in a rehab hospital in San Francisco, Linda is learning to live again.

DR. PHILLIP O’KEEFE, CALIFORNIA PACIFIC MEDICAL CTR.:  Her ability to deal with the pain and problems that she still has really been heroic.

GUPTA:  Her husband Richard is right there with her, says he wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

R. RIVERA:  Probably, any family to have to go through this. I mean, just — it does tear your life away. Linda’s probably the most giving and cheerful and optimistic woman you’ll ever meet. And she gave and gave and gave. And to see what this has done to her just tore me apart.

GUPTA:  Linda is not going to give up. She says she has a lot to live for.

L. RIVERA:  I don’t want this horrible disease to win. So I want the rest of the world to know about it. They need to know.

Don’t take a chance with it. It’s not worth it. You give up your life, you lose everything.

GUPTA:  I tell you, we did speak to Linda’s husband this week and he says Linda is improving little by little. He figures at best, she’s going to be in rehab for another six to eight months and then she’ll go home and do outpatient rehab. She’s also going to require a nurse’s care for some time to come as well.

Foodborne contamination, cookie dough, that’s what this is all from. Linda, we wish you well.