US: Nancy Donley and STOP
Posted: October 17th, 2011 - 5:55pm
Last week, I attended a food safety meeting in Chicago hosted by Underwriters Laboratories. One of the participants was Nancy Donley, one of the original founders of the group – Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.). Nancy lost her son Alex to an E. coli O157:H7 infection in 1993 and for the past 18 years, she has dedicated her life to the cause of food safety.
We live in a time when just about everyone and every group has a hidden agenda. Nancy is the exception. She isn’t an animal rights activist or anti-technology or anti-meat. She doesn’t represent any special interest group. She is a committed and concerned consumer whose agenda is 100% transparent - it is all about safer food.
The organization recently changed its name – it is now called “STOP Foodborne Illness”. They also have a new CEO – Deidre Schlunegger who was also at the meeting. I have lost count of the meetings in which S.T.O.P. and Nancy have participated. Many others have come and gone, but Nancy still participates. She has a job and family responsibilities, yet seems to always find the time to learn about food safety innovations and act as an advocate for victims of foodborne disease.
During the meeting, one of the speakers showed a video of a heartbroken mother testifying about the death of her three year old daughter – also to an E. coli O157:H7 infection. Nancy left the room during the video and after watching it, is was clear to everyone in the room why it was impossible for her to watch. The truth is the disease is so unspeakably horrible that no one wants to really contemplate that the people affected are real. All too often, they are children. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in the science or the statistics surrounding foodborne disease. Seeing the human tragedy it causes reinforces the fact that this is a disease that needs to be eradicated.
Over the past two years, I have written about the progress that has been made in reducing the risk to consumers. It really is impressive. The beef industry has taken on a problem that initially seemed to be insolvable. I will say again that beef carcasses and beef products are cleaner and safer than at any time in history of the industry. Some of the technologies on the horizon will continue to reduce the problem, not just in beef products, but in all foods. Eventually, I believe it will be solved.
In the mean time, if there was ever an issue that deserved the commitment of every company and every individual in the food industry, this is it.