Linda Rivera, age 59, may die from eating cookie dough laced with E. coli. Death by chocolate, a popular dessert name, is now no joke. To the credit of the Washington Post, they featured the story on the front page last week:
In Room 519 of Kindred Hospital, Linda Rivera can no longer speak. Her mute state, punctuated only by groans, is the latest downturn in the swift collapse of her health that began in May when she curled up on her living room couch and nonchalantly ate several spoonfuls of the Nestlé cookie dough her family had been consuming for years. Federal health officials believe she is among 80 people in 31 states sickened by cookie dough contaminated with a deadly bacteria, E. coli O157:H7. The impact of the infection has been especially severe for Rivera and nine other victims who developed a life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. One, a 4-year-old girl from South Carolina, had a stroke and is partially paralyzed.
Last week, I met with legendary food safety lawyer Bill Marler in his office in Seattle. Not to distract from the serious topic at hand, I must mention that the view from his office is AMAZING - a 66th floor view of Puget Sound out of two windows of his corner office that take up most of their respective walls. Marler was incredibly nice in person, as he is online, but he was also intense about the topic of food safety (as you'd expect). After you meet people like Linda Rivera and her family who suffer so much from tainted foods, there's just no way to be casual about the subject.
As you can read on Marler's blog, he says that food safety reform must be part of health care reform. Consider: 76 million Americans are sickened by food poisoning each year, 325,000 are hospitalized, and at least 5,000 die. Every one one of those illnesses is preventable, as are the lost life, productivity, and health care costs. That's an awful lot of money.