Statement From Foodborne Illness Victim Lauren Bush

On Nov. 17, Lauren Bush gave a statement before the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets and the Northeast Association of State Departments of Agriculture about her experience with E. coli poisoning, contracted from tainted spinach in 2006.

During my junior year of college, I almost died.  What doctors thought to be a relatively harmless virus quickly changed to a diagnosis of appendicitis.  I was in excruciating pain.  Knowing something still wasn’t right, I argued with my doctors to consider another diagnosis.  It was like nothing I had ever felt before.  It wasn’t until I took a turn for the worse and began to hemorrhage two days later that they finally suspected I was right.  I spent the next three weeks in two hospitals, two emergency rooms, and three different urgent treatment facilities because I was finally well enough to go home and begin to recover—all of this because of a spinach salad.

Before my foodborne illness, I was a typical young, healthy student.  By the time I returned home from the hospital, I had lost 20 pounds.  Unable to feed and care for myself, I was in complete emotional and physical turmoil.  I spent the next five months on a continuous regimen of antibiotics and vitamins.  

I count myself as lucky that I was able to return to school the following spring, but it was several months before I could walk to class without stopping to take a breath. And in some ways, my body will never be the same.

I have found the positive side of enduring such a horrendous experience.  I have worked tirelessly to put a human face on the foodborne-illness statistics.  I have met with Members of Congress, written blogs, and given interviews, all in an effort to give the 128,000 Americans who are hospitalized every year because of foodborne illness a voice. 

I commend the Food and Drug Administration for its hard work and the progress that has been made with the release of the supplemental proposals.  In order to truly minimize the risk of foodborne illness, the final rules should adequately address all potential sources of contamination.  My concern is that FDA has decided to wait to set a minimum waiting period between the application of raw manure and harvesting for five to 10 years until it completes additional research.  This puts consumers at unreasonable risk.  FDA should adopt the National Organic Program standards related to raw manure as the interim standards.    

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