Haylee Bernstein miraculously survived a very serious 14-week battle with E. coli, and Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, from eating pre-washed mesclun lettuce greens when she was three years old.  Following her bout with E. coli, Haylee developed diabetes, vision problems, and reduced kidney function. Now at 16, Haylee is a well-spoken advocate for stronger food safety laws.  As active members of the Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P), organization she and her parents, Rita and Larry, frequent Congressional hearings and lobby days to share their story. 

Last week, when the Bernsteins were in Washington to attend the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act markup in the Senate, Haylee brought with her a hand-written message for First Lady Michelle Obama:

Dear Mrs. Obama,


My name is Haylee and I am 16

I have a story that’s not so keen.

When I was only three

The world was great and I was free

I had some lettuce

It made me sick

E. coli it had.it was so ick

I came all this way

I have a lot to say

But I need this bill to pass quick

Before the time

Someone else get sick

Food Safety’s the key to help prevent

What happened to me

Please take my message to heart

I know you will cause you’re

Really smart.


Thank you,


Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) shared Haylee’s story during the food safety markup, a meeting that left the Bernsteins feeling hopeful that the federal food safety system will be strengthened. “It is our hope that legislation like the one being considered today will prevent these kinds of supply contamination from devastating other families,” said the Bernsteins in a statement from Dodd’s office.

S.T.O.P works to prevent foodborne illness by advocating for stronger food safety policies and by educating the public about food safety and recalls. You can sign up for S.T.O.P.’s E-Alerts here.