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FDA Gathers Guidance On New Food Safety Law

OPB | March 28, 2013 2:09 p.m. | Updated: March 28, 2013 3:48 p.m. | Portland

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The FDA has completed two days of hearings in Portland on implementing a new food safety law.

The Food Safety Modernization Act widens the FDA’s jurisdiction to include places like packing and storage facilities.

Dozens of industry groups, governments and producers from all over the West came to the hearing to testify about how the rules might affect their business. Their concerns ranged from to how inspections would be performed to what kind of exceptions might be allowed for small businesses or specialty producers. 

FDA staff also heard testimony from people who had direct experience with serious food poisoning. 

Portlander Joe Day tearfully recalled the year his family spent Thanksgiving in a hospital cafeteria, as his sister, suffering from e coli, fought for her life several floors above.

Portlander Joe Day tearfully recalled the year his family spent Thanksgiving in a hospital cafeteria, as his sister, suffering from e coli, fought for her life several floors above.

April Baer / Oregon Public Broadcasting

“Kind of ironic, the first three words I have on this page here, I’ve already heard three times today: ‘I’ll never forget,’” said Portlander Joe Day, who recalled standing with his grandfather at his sister’s hospital bedside when she was sickened by E. coli. “As he looked down at her in bed, unconscious, unresponsive, in bed, one corner of her mouth drooping from an unidentifiable neurological complication, I saw a look of helpless fear cross his face I thought I’d never live to see.” 

After weeks in the hospital, Day’s sister made it off her respirator and recovered from E. coli. But Day invoked other, fatal cases and implored FDA staff to stand by the Act’s priority on preventing food-born illness, rather than reacting to it.

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