A new food safety video for California farm workers features the stories of foodborne illness victims. Together, STOP Foodborne Illness and California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) produced a video that will be used during training for workers who produce leafy greens in California. It features the stories of Rylee Gustafson and Lauren Bush – both of whom became ill from E. coli in spinach in 2006 – as a means to illustrate why complying with food safety rules is so important.

From left: LGMA member, Dan Sutton, victims Rylee Gustafson and Lauren Bush, and Gustafson’s mother, Kathleen Chrismer.
Gustafson got sick two days after her ninth birthday. What started as just a pain in her stomach led to kidney failure, loss of vision, loss of hearing and swelling around her brain and her heart. “It was really emotional for me because I felt the world was collapsing,” Gustafson, who thought she was going to die, said in the video. Bush was a junior in college when she ate contaminated spinach. When she first got sick, she said she felt like she had the flu, but within four days, she was hemorrhaging. “The minute that you stop remembering is when mistakes are made – is when people skip steps,” Bush said in the video. “Skipping steps and forgetting that your choices directly impact somebody across the country from you that’s eating your product… that’s a big responsibility.” During a press call Wednesday, Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, called the video a “wonderful demonstration of how we can understand the common interest that we all have in food safety.” “Training is a critical tool in making sure everyone on our farms knows about and understands proper food safety practices,” said Ryan Talley, LGMA chairman. “But in order to truly educate people and make real change, not only does everyone on the farm need to understand what to do, but they should also know why food safety is so important.” STOP CEO, Deirdre Schlunegger, said that it will reach the people “on the front line of producing our food” through the LGMA Tech training program which targets supervisors and lead food safety personnel who are responsible for ensuring that all workers are adequately trained in their company’s food safety program and the LGMA food safety practices. Dan Sutton, LGMA member and general manager of Pismo-Oceano Vegetable Growers Exchange, said during the press call that he participated in a training hosted by LGMA Tech last week where the video incorporated into the program – he believed for the first time. “As the video concluded, there was nothing but absolute silence in the room,” he said. “I began to look around at the other attendees and quickly realized this video did have the impact – it had meaning and it will be a powerful training tool.” During an interview also featured in the new video, Sutton explained that he needs others “to understand that this is why we do what we do, this is why food safety is important, this is why we go to efforts that we go to.”