Portland, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today met with state public health officials and families of children who have been sickened by food-borne illnesses to talk about the need for stronger food safety laws and increased measures to track contaminated food.
A food safety bill is currently pending in Congress and Senator Merkley today urged his Senate colleagues to strengthen and pass the bill to ensure that when a contaminated food outbreak occurs, officials are able quickly to identify the contaminated food and its source, potentially saving millions of Americans from consuming contaminated food products.
“No family should have to go through what the families here described,” Merkley said. “Most parents, me included, spend a lot of time worrying about how to keep their kids safe in a dangerous world. We shouldn’t have to also worry about how to protect our kids from the food on their plates. Many of our food safety rules have not been updated in 70 years and it is time for changes to ensure the safety of our families.”
As a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Merkley worked with his colleagues to pass the food safety bill earlier this year. Senator Merkley was a key supporter of increasing the tracing systems for processed foods and successfully pushed for a pilot project to trace processed foods.
Families from Bend and Portland, whose children were sickened by food borne illnesses, attended today’s roundtable discussion and urged Senator Merkley to continue fighting for tracing systems for processed foods. The bill already includes changes to improve the process of tracing fresh produce to its source in the event of an outbreak.
“I’m pleased that we were able to add a pilot project for tracing processed foods but the reality is we need to go beyond a pilot program to make sure all foods – like the peanut butter crackers that made children sick –can be quickly identified and taken off store shelves if they’re contaminated,” Merkley said. “These families shouldn’t have to wait any longer and it shouldn’t take another outbreak to make sure that the snacks and meals won’t make them sick.”