Food safety: Actions speak louder than words

| 11/12/2007

Nancy Donley, president of S.T.O.P. – Safe Tables Our Priority – describes her nonprofit grassroots organization as being an “actionist” group instead of an advocacy group because actions are more important than words when it comes to food safety.

In her almost 15 years of being involved in S.T.O.P, Donley has worked tirelessly to educate the public, legislators, families of victims and the media on the issue of food safety and the need for having a mandatory recall system. She admits, however, that she has never really thought about transportation when recalls are issued and truckers are left “holding the bag.”

“I never thought about what the transportation carriers have to do if the product is refused and they are stuck with it. That is a problem. There should be some procedures in place, and frankly it should be up to the companies that produce the bad product to be financially responsible for this,” Donley told Land Line.

“If you want to make it all encompassing and worthwhile as far as putting in new recall protocols, you need to include transportation in the process.”

Tuesday, Nov. 13, Donley will testify before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is holding its fourth hearing in recent months on food safety, titled “Diminished Capacity: Can the FDA Assure the Safety and Security of Our Nation’s Food Supply?” The purpose of this hearing is to discuss “Deception in Labeling.”

“My testimony is regarding the meat industry’s use of carbon monoxide in meat. They use carbon monoxide, which causes a chemical reaction that causes the color of the meat to become quite red, and that color is maintained even if the product has been severely temperature abused,” she said.

“This practice also makes it impossible for consumers to know that the product could contain harmful levels of bacteria,” Donley said.

She has experienced firsthand what happens when tainted meat enters the food supply chain and consumers buy product that could potentially be contaminated with deadly E. coli bacteria.

Donley’s 6-year-old son, Alex, died after eating a hamburger tainted with E. coli.

“Something is basically wrong that there should still be any issues with food safety,” Donley said. “I think back and it’s been almost 15 years since the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak, which brought about this whole issue of food safety. I think it’s really sad what little progress we’ve made; it’s really sad. And it’s also very telling that food safety is such a low priority in this country.

The need for mandatory recall authority to be given to the FDA and to the USDA is a top priority for S.T.O.P. if there are to be changes in the food safety system.

“It’s ridiculous to think that these companies should be able to make a decision on voluntary recalls,” She said. “Why isn’t the regulator – the government – making these decisions?”

For more information on who will be testifying at tomorrow’s hearing, click here.

For more than a year now, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has been pushing for a place at the table when it comes to meaningful discussions regarding food safety.

– By Clarissa Kell-Holland, staff writer