Food safety too important for partisan delays (Sen. Harry Reid)

Yet that’s exactly what’s happening.  If you follow the Senate every day, you might not be surprised to see our Republican friends turn food safety in a partisan, political issue.  But if you’re just trying to keep yourself and your family healthy, you might be appalled.  And rightly so.

You might also be troubled to learn that our food-safety system hasn’t been updated in almost a century.

Food processing, production and marketing have surely advanced over the last hundred years, but our safety measures haven’t.  New contaminants come up every year, but our safety measures don’t keep up.

That’s because our FDA doesn’t have the authority or resources it needs to keep up.

This bill will fix that.  It will greatly improve this important system, and it will keep regulatory burdens on farmers and food producers to a minimum.  It simply gives the FDA the authority to recall contaminated foods, to find out where those dangerous foods came from, and to stop them from getting to our grocery stores.

It’s a bipartisan bill.  The HELP Committee passed it unanimously.  But somewhere between the committee and the Senate floor, making sure the food we eat isn’t poisonous has somehow become a partisan issue.  That’s unacceptable.

Food poisoning kills as many as 5,000 Americans every year.  Food-borne illnesses sicken one in four people every year.  Surely if 25 Senators – a quarter of the Senate – got food poisoning this year, we’d do something about it – and we wouldn’t think twice about which political party those Senators identified with.

People often think of food poisoning as an upset stomach that goes away in a few hours or a day.  And sometimes, yes, 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.

I’ve told, in this chamber, the story of a girl named 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 and went to the hospital.  Three others who got E.coli from fresh spinach died.

I’ve also told the story of the Rivera Family from Las Vegas.  Linda Rivera ingested E. coli from some cookie dough.  Soon, she was in a coma.

Then, just a few days ago, the CDC alerted us to another E. Coli outbreak.  Thirty-seven Americans have gotten sick from a brand of cheese sold in the West, including two in Nevada.

So why have we waited this long to make our food safer?  Why are we still playing these games?  The answer is nothing more than politics.  It’s shameful.  And it should end today.

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