Foodborne illness victims and their families gathered at the White House after lobbying the Senate to pass FDA food safety reform legislation in early October; the White House recently cleared details and pictures from the meeting.

Victims and their families shared their stories with Mariano-Florentino Cuellor, the lead staffer for the White House Food Safety Working Group and David Lazarus, senior advisor to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who works closely with the White House on food safety issues.  Sam Kass, assistant White House chef, then took the group for a tour of the White House Kitchen Garden.White house meeting article.jpg

Barbara Kowalyck, who tragically lost her two-year-old son Kevin to E. coli and now leads the Center for Foodborne Illness Prevention and Research, participated in the meeting at the White House.

Kowalyck told prominent food blogger Obamafoodorama that the group discussed strengthening FDA’s oversight powers, mandatory recall and inspection authority, and enacting stiffer penalties for violating food laws.

“We cannot afford to wait for another outbreak. Congress must act now and pass food safety legislation that protects families from facing the same hardships we have,” said Maine resident Carol Kintner Gates, who also lost a family member to foodborne illness. “Nobody in America should have to worry about whether the food they eat and feed their family will cause severe illness or death.”

The meeting was part of a larger effort by the Make Our Food Safe Coalition, a group made up of consumer advocacy and industry groups pushing for FDA food safety reform legislation.

“Without immediate reform, the preventable outbreaks from contaminated food–like those that occurred earlier this year–are likely to continue,” said the group in a statement yesterday.

Photo courtesy of the Make Our Food Safe Campaign. Pictured: (front to back) Jake Hurley, Thomas Christoferson, Luke Bennett, Aidan Buck, Chloe Bennett, Lara and Meagan Kowalcyk, and John Chistoferson.