Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The human toll from E. coli
This past week, I had a chance to meet a family that was dramatically affected by the E. coli outbreak in spinach. Sure, like you, I heard the numbers. In fact, I reported that 204 people were affected and that three people had died. But those were numbers. There were real stories behind those numbers. So, who were these people? And, what happens to you if you are afflicted with the bad strain of E. coli? (Watch Video)
Well, seven months ago, Tiffany and Russell Erickson found themselves in the middle of the outbreak. Yes, they ate spinach contaminated with the 0157:H7 strain in Salt Lake City, Utah. The bacteria were then passed on to their two children. The parents recovered, but their 4-year-old child, Regan, became really sick.
He first developed nausea, and then strange puffiness. He started to have awful headaches and hypertension. He was developing one of the most devastating consequences of an E. coli contamination, something known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. His kidneys were shutting down and he needed dialysis. Again, all of this from spinach. He will recover and survive, but will most likely have problems for the rest of his life.
What is most difficult to comprehend is that our food is really no safer now than a year ago. The USDA and FDA are responsible for the food safety, but they have no definitive authority to recall food off the shelves - that is only done voluntarily. And, we have no way of knowing for sure that the food supply won't get contaminated again. Most people still don't worry about food safety, fully convinced it won't happen to them. The Erickson, family, though, used to think the same thing.
So, what do you think should be done to try and make our food supply safer?
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