"Importers Must Keep Food Safe"

"Importers Must Keep Food Safe"

"Six years ago, I learned a painful lesson. I bought Veggie Booty for our triplets, who were 20 months old at the time. That purchase ultimately opened my eyes to the need for better oversight of food that comes from abroad.

Veggie Booty was advertised as "natural." However, Veggie Booty severely sickened two of my children with high fevers and severe diarrhea, nearly put one of them in the hospital. My daughter had a 105.3 temperature and bowel movements full of blood. She lost 10 percent of her body weight.

Fortunately, my children survived and are healthy today. What did not survive is my willingness to assume the food I serve my family — even when labeled natural — is safe. I learned the hard way that as we shop the grocery store picking up fresh fruits and vegetables, or healthy-sounding packaged food, we don't know where they came from and who, if anyone, made sure they were safe.

My children were struck by a pathogen called salmonella Wandsworth, a rare strain that had never before been found in the United States. It also sickened at least 65 other people across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

While the Veggie Booty was manufactured in this country, preliminary testing by the CDC suggests that the seasoning in Veggie Booty — manufactured in China — may have been the source of contamination. This is where my real education began. I learned that 15 percent of our food is produced abroad, which includes 50 percent of the fruit and 20 percent of the vegetables we consume. Food imports have increased 10 percent each of the past few years."

Read the full commentary at the Times Union