Like many Americans, Paul Schwarz is fed up with the inaction in Washington, DC. After losing his father to the Listeria cantaloupe outbreak nearly a year ago, Schwarz has kept tabs on food safety policy and he’s frustrated that none of the measures that could have prevented the tragic outbreak have been implemented.
Last week, Schwarz took his first trip to our nation’s capital to try and do something about it.
“I was very frustrated that Congress didn’t grant us a hearing [on the outbreak],” said Schwarz, who lives in Independence, Missouri. “Every chance I get to tell Dad’s story, I will. It affected our family immensely and 146 other families — they have stories, too.”
Paul’s father, Paul Schwarz Sr., was an active 92-year-old World War II veteran who was awarded two Purple Hearts. He is survived by his wife Rosellen of 68 years, five children, nine grandchildren, and ten great grandchildren.
In a trip coordinated by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Schwarz Jr. met with a handful of Missouri lawmaker’s offices — Sens. Roy Blunt (R), Claire McCaskill (D), and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D) — to tell his dad’s story and urge them to fully fund food safety efforts.
He also asked members to send letters to the White House Office of Management and Budget, where key Food Safety Modernization Act rules have been languishing for 10 months, far longer than the normal 90 day review period.
Many of the key rules — which would mandate produce safety standards and preventative controls for food manufacturers — were actually sent to OMB for review around the same time Schwarz lost his father, Paul Schwarz Sr., to Listeriosis complications at the end of 2011.
Though there has been speculation over whether the rules are being held up until after the election to avoid the potentially unflattering optics of “job-killing” regulations, even though the food industry supports FSMA, both OMB and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have insisted that the draft rules are just complex and will be made public as soon as possible.
“It is complicated. There are four rules that have to work well together,” said FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor, last month. “There’s been the normal back and forth [with OMB]. They’ll be cleared when they’re cleared. There’s not much more that I can say.”
Schwarz said the staff he met with were very receptive to his concerns, but no one had an explanation for the food safety hold up at the White House.
“They were very interested in what I had to say,” said Schwarz. “They said they would do all the could.”
“Things are just held up,” he added. “I don’t understand all the inner workings, but it has been long enough. Lives are at stake.”
In the meantime, he’s avoiding cantaloupe.
Pictured: Paul and Rosellen Schwarz. Photos courtesy of the Schwarz family.© Food Safety News