On Nov. 17, Gabrielle Meunier read this statement before the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets and the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture about her son’s 2008 bout with Salmonella poisoning linked to contaminated peanut butter.
I still remember the sound of my son Christopher crying in pain. He was 7 years old and screaming, “It hurts so bad I want to die!” Unfortunately, my son was not alone. In 2008, Christopher was one of hundreds of victims of salmonella infections linked to peanut products. As I stand here today, however, I count myself as one of the lucky parents. My son Christopher survived, while nine people died. There are still health consequences from the salmonella infection. And the impact of those six days Christopher spent in the hospital remains with me as well.
I stand here today as a parent and as a food safety advocate. On behalf of everyone whose life has been forever changed by foodborne illness, I want to encourage FDA to finalize the proposed Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules as soon as possible. With each passing day, children just like Christopher are needlessly at risk. As a Vermont resident who has traveled to Washington, D.C., met with our Representatives, and testified before the United States Senate in order to plead for stricter food safety standards, I commend the incredible work the agency has done to this point. The testing requirements in the supplemental proposal are vitally important. All companies should be required to verify that their ingredients and end-products meet the highest safety standards. And I remain grateful for the FDA’s attention to risky foods, such as peanut products.
I wish that FSMA had been in place to protect Christopher and prevent our family from enduring an unimaginably painful hardship. Legal recourse after people get sick and die is not how we should be protecting our public health. The courts can punish, but with a fully implemented and strongly enforced FSMA, FDA can save lives.