Washington, DC – Nevada Senator Harry Reid made the following statement on the Senate floor today in support of passage of food safety legislation. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“America has one of the safest and most abundant food supplies in the world. But it’s not perfect: Food-borne illnesses sicken one in four people every year. As many as 5,000 Americans die from food poisoning.
“The bill we are bringing to the floor is simple: it will make our food safer. It is a bipartisan bill that was reported out unanimously from the HELP Committee.
“People often think of food poisoning as an upset stomach that goes away in a few hours or a day. Sometimes that’s all it is. But sometimes it is much worse. I have met with families who have been seriously sickened by the food they’ve eaten – people who were hospitalized for weeks and months and came very close to death. In some cases, they will deal with the results of their food poisoning for the rest of their lives.
“One of the little girls I met is Rylee Gustafson from Henderson, Nevada. When she was 9 years old, she ate a salad that almost killed her. There was spinach in that salad, and E. coli in that spinach. Rylee got seriously ill. She was hospitalized and very luckily, she recovered. Three others who got E.coli from fresh spinach died.
“I also met with the Rivera Family from Las Vegas. Linda Rivera also became sick from E. coli – this time it was in cookie dough. Last October she was in a coma and on life support, and doctors didn’t have much hope she would survive. Almost a year later, she’s still recovering. It will be a long road back to full health for Linda.
“And last month there was another big recall. This time is was eggs contaminated with salmonella. More than 2,000 people have been sickened during this outbreak.
“The egg recall and stories like what Rylee and Linda and their families went through illustrate the need for this food safety bill. People in Nevada and across the country are asking for this legislation. They want to know that the food they put on their families’ dinner table and pack in their children’s lunches is safe to eat.
“There is no excuse to wait any longer. Our current food safety system hasn’t been updated in almost a century. It’s not keeping up with the contaminants that cause these problems. The FDA doesn’t have the authority or resources it needs to keep up with the modern advances and expansion in food processing, production and marketing. This bill will fix that. The bipartisan FDA Food Safety Modernization Act would greatly improve this system while minimizing regulatory burden.
“It gives the FDA mandatory recall authority of contaminated foods. It sets up a system to allow FDA to keep track of food so we can find out where the contaminated food came from and quickly stop it from getting to grocery stores. It strikes the right balance between assuring consumers that food is safe without over-burdening farmers with new regulations. And it makes no changes to the current Organic Program run by the US Department of Agriculture.
“Nothing could be more important than using our time here to our constituents safe. Nothing should be less controversial than keeping them out of harm’s way. Let’s move to this common-sense bill and pass it.”