Food Safety Victim Testimony: Gabrielle Meunier
Gabrielle Meunier is a resident of South Burlington, VT, whose 7-year-old son became ill from a salmonella infection in 2008
That fall, Christopher Meunier was hospitalized for seven days with fever, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting so severe that he screamed in pain. His sickness was traced to salmonella in peanut butter produced in Georgia that sickened more than 700 people across the country.
Christopher continues to have health effects from his illness, and Gabrielle has shared her son's story before the U.S. Senate and with national media. She hopes that stricter safeguards, such as the fully implemented FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, will prevent other children from experiencing the pain her son suffered.
"It hurts so bad I want to die." Those words, screamed by my then-7-year-old son Christopher, will live with me forever. In the fall of 2008, Christopher became one of hundreds of victims of salmonella infections linked to peanut products. Sadly, my story is not unique. I am here only as one person, on behalf of my son, because just one family impacted by foodborne illness is one too many. I can only imagine the grief that a parent who lost a child due to a foodborne illness must live with every day. Thankfully, Christopher survived that horrible experience. The health impacts continue to linger all these years later. The seven days during which Christopher was hospitalized seemed like an eternity. I felt helpless and was left for too long without answers. And as those responsible for this particular outbreak begin to be held accountable for their negligence, my job as a parent in this instance is far from over.
The purpose of my presence here is not only to share Christopher's story, but to deliver a message on behalf of consumers and others who care about making the food supply safer, determined to not let one more family be impacted the way mine was. For more than four years, I have been a food safety advocate, determined to put an end to this needless risk. I testified before the United States Senate, urging for stricter safeguards. The result was enactment of the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The promise of this vitally important piece of legislation, however, will not be realized without full implementation.
That is why I am incredibly grateful to the FDA for the release of the proposed preventive controls rule. Upon reviewing the draft, I was glad to see special attention paid to risky foods such as peanut products. In mentioning these products, I felt as though Christopher and others like him who were sickened in the 2009 PCA outbreak — and others linked to peanut products—were getting a voice. I am hopeful, now more than ever, that with the rule's finalization and the full implementation of FSMA, fewer children will scream out in pain—all because of something they ate.