Statement from Foodborne Illness Victim Margo Moskowitz
On Nov. 19, Margo Moskowitz gave a statement before the Georgia Department of Agriculture about her 2009 bout with E. coli poisoning, which was linked to prepackaged cookie dough.
In May 2009, I was a perfectly healthy junior in college. One Saturday afternoon, I rushed to prepare cookies from some prepackaged cookie dough for a party that night. As I split the cookies apart and placed them on the pan, I took the smallest bite. I had no idea that nibble would almost kill me. I was part of an outbreak that sickened 80 people, 35 of whom, including me, were hospitalized.
As the next week went by, it was clear that I was not myself. I felt incredibly lethargic, often waking up sweating and nauseated. I clearly remember crawling to the bathroom on my hands and knees, certain that this had to be more than just the flu.
I had already booked a flight home to visit and didn’t want to cancel, so I struggled through the painful flight. Over the next few days, my symptoms did not improve. In fact, I began to feel worse. My complaints of an intense burning sensation in my stomach were enough for my mom to take me to the emergency room. I cried out in pain as I waited for the tests and scans to begin. With each sip of water I had to drink, the burning intensified. By the time I was admitted to the hospital in the middle of the night, doctors still did not have a diagnosis.
I was placed in isolation for the first two days. As I got sicker, the doctors put me on very strong antibiotics, upsetting my stomach even more. I wasn’t allowed to eat anything except ice chips.
It wasn’t until my third day in the hospital that a test finally revealed that I had an E. coli O157:H7 infection. A diagnosis did provide any relief. Doctors panicked. They had placed me on intense antibiotics, which can cause kidney failure for E.coli victims. Luckily, over the next three days, my condition improved. I was put on different diets ranging from clear liquids to, eventually, the morning of my discharge, a plain pancake. To this day, it is the best thing I have ever eaten.
I spent weeks at home recovering, forced to make doctor’s visits regularly. I eventually went back to school, but I had missed so much class, I was required to withdraw for the entire year.
I spent the next year in and out of doctor’s offices—my immune system was still decimated. A year later, I suddenly came down with one of my worst stomachaches. Seeing blood in my stool, I knew something was very wrong. I ended up spending my 21st birthday in the emergency room. After a colonoscopy the next month, it was revealed that I was still suffering because of the E. coli infection.
I am constantly getting better, but I doubt my body will ever be the same. Knowing that I am one of the estimated 48 million Americans who are sickened by foodborne illness annually, I work tirelessly to be a strong voice for them. I am grateful for the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, and the work that FDA is doing to finalize regulations. I strongly support the supplemental proposal related to processed foods—like prepackaged cookie dough—which would require food companies to better ensure the safety of the ingredients they use in their products and to test products to verify that the measures put in place to ensure safety are working.