lunes, 27 de abril de 2015

Listeria Victims Address FDA, Food Industry Officials in D.C.

In many cases, Listeria infection is a life sentence.

A year ago, Brad Frey never would have imagined he would be standing in front of officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and urging them to do more to prevent outbreaks of Listeria monocytogenes. Despite living in the middle of “crop country” outside Santa Cruz, CA, he had never heard of Listeria monocytogenes, foodborne bacteria less well known than Salmonella or E. coli, but one that can more often be fatal.
However, Frey was painfully aware of Listeria by December 2014, when his mother, passed away from a Listeria infection after eating a contaminated caramel apple purchased at Safeway.
Recently, he and other foodborne illness victims from around the U.S. traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional aides and have the opportunity to address the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Brad Frey holds his phone while a video plays of his parents dancing in their driveway two years ago. Frey and other victims shared their stories with federal lawmakers.
“In December, my mother passed away from Listeria,” Frey said, speaking to FDA officials in the audience and a panel of food industry representatives taking questions. “Since the caramel apple outbreak, we’ve seen three more outbreaks in the news. It’s pretty heartbreaking to know that testing could have saved lives, but not enough testing is being done.”
Frey went on to ask the industry panel and FDA what specifically they were going to do to reduce the risk of Listeria illnesses going forward.
None of the industry panelists opted to answer, but Frey did get a quick response from Roberta Wagner, director of regulatory affairs at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.
That’s what FSMA is all about, Wagner said — making sure that food companies and FDA work to eliminate preventable foodborne illnesses because so many of them are preventable.
A similar case, presented by John McKissick, a retired teacher and consultant from Pennsylvania, who fell ill with Listeria three years ago after eating contaminated cheese imported from Italy and France. McKissick spent two months hospitalized, six weeks of that time unconscious. The infection caused significant nerve damage and, as a result, he had little choice but to retire from work. “In many cases, Listeria infection is a life sentence,” he told FDA officials. “It cannot be taken lightly.”
McKissick asked how FDA was going to reduce Listeria illnesses and improve the safety of imports through its foreign supplier verification program, a core component of the new regulations included in FSMA.

The foreign inspection program will require importers to take a new “proactive responsibility” for food safety.

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