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The Center for Foodborne Illness and Research

Phil Winnard was a dedicated food safety advocate who died one year ago this week. To mark the one year anniversary of his death, Phil’s wife, Leigh Ann Winnard has written the following blog.

One Year Later, Public Still Waiting for New Food Safety Law

When my son Matthew was sickened with E. coli O157:H7 in 2002, Phil stayed by his bed and helped me to cope with watching my young child suffer through a devastating illness called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). I remember being scared because I knew that people were dying in that outbreak, and my little boy was so sick that he could not stand or even sit by himself. Today, Matthew has graduated from high school and is ready to leave for college, but sadly, Phil did not live to celebrate with us. Phil’s untimely death one year ago was a blow to both Matthew and me, as well as for many others.

Last July, just two weeks before Phil’s death, our family was asked to travel to Washington, D.C. to once again advocate for food safety. In previous visits, we had supported the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, but now that FSMA had become a law, there was a real concern that Congress would not provide enough funding . . . so Phil and Matt interrupted their beach vacation to tell national policy-makers that appropriations for food safety protected Americans from dangerous foodborne illnesses.

Trust me, there is nothing romantic about wearing a suit and tie on a hot summer day as you make the rounds to Congressional offices, but “my guys” did it so that other people would have safer food. At the end of their day, Phil called and told me how proud he was of Matthew and his ability to speak out. And yes, their work paid off – early in August 2011, the Senate increased its appropriations to the FDA, which helped, even though it was not enough to implement all of the new provisions.

Today, we are one year past Phil’s death, and here is the new challenge. Despite the fact that the law has been enacted, the appropriations have been awarded, and FDA has proposed regulations, the new law is still not implemented. What is going on? All of the hard work has been done – the policy makers, advocates, regulators, economists all agree. But without White House approval, the law lays dormant like a forgotten shoe in a full closet. Phil would not be happy with this turn of events; neither am I.

I urge you to write the White House and voice your concerns about the delays in approving FDA’s proposals to implement FSMA. All Americans deserve a safe food supply, but without a preventive (not reactive!) approach, it will be harder to achieve that goal. Thank you for helping – my family appreciates your joining us in this important effort.

Leigh Ann Winnard is from Kansas. She is a CFI Food Safety Ambassador

Founded in 2006 to help America find science-based solutions to the food safety challenges of the 21st Century, the Center for Foodborne Illness Research & Prevention (CFI) is a national 501 (c)(3) health organization dedicated to preventing foodborne illness through research, education, advocacy and service.  CFI founders, Barbara Kowalcyk and Patricia Buck, were featured in the documentary Food Inc. in order to raise awareness about the serious public health issues, as well as the gaps created by outdated food safety laws, that have been associated with foodborne illness. 
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