Food Safety Victim Testimony: Jeff Almer

In March 2013, Jeff Almer delivered the following testimony at a public meeting held by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The meeting was one of a series organized to receive comments on rules that FDA is proposing to implement the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, or FSMA.

Testimony by Jeff Almer

My mother, Shirley Almer, a two-time cancer survivor, died right before Christmas 2008. She lost her life not because of a horrific disease, but due to an infection she got from something she ate. She had defied the odds and beaten brain cancer. It was peanut butter contaminated with salmonella that eventually took her away from us.

The thought of losing a parent is, naturally, incredibly difficult for anyone. The way she died, however, is especially painful for my family. We constantly struggle with the thought that her death was entirely preventable. My mother and eight other people lost their lives because of the negligence of others. Had a fully implemented FDA Food Safety Modernization Act been in place at the time of her death, I would thankfully not be testifying here today. My mother would likely still be alive.

But it is in her memory that I am here. I believe that the proposed preventive-control rule is designed to prevent the outbreak like the one that killed my mom. Over four years ago, I had no other choice than to become a food safety advocate. The thought of one more person needlessly losing a loved one was too much to bear. I made frequent trips to Washington, DC, to urge my representatives to support the passage of FSMA, and I will not rest until the needed safeguards are in place to end the type of loss my family experienced.

I have seen firsthand that deaths as a result of salmonella infection are very painful. I wrestle almost daily with the excruciating struggle my mother encountered at the end of her life. It was a fate not worthy of a strong and brave woman like my mom. It is for her and all victims of foodborne illness and their families that I ask that the preventive-controls rule be finalized as quickly as possible and thereby begin to fulfill FSMA's historic promise. I urge the agency to require product and environmental testing as a way to verify that food companies have in place measures to ensure safe food production.

I commend the FDA for the release of the proposed rule and remain a steadfast advocate and champion for the full implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. Once FSMA is fully implemented and enforced, I hope that fewer people will be forced to grieve because of foodborne illness.

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