Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) urged Congress to fully fund the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in his remarks Tuesday on the floor of the U.S. Senate. “Unfortunately for many Americans, falling ill from contaminated food has become all too regular,” Reid said. He described the experiences of Rylee Gustafson and Lauren Bush, both of whom became ill from E. coli in spinach in 2006.

Sen. Harry Reid on the Senate floor with a picture of Rylee Gustafson.
Gustafson became ill 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 heart. “What a sweet, sweet spirit,” Reid said, looking at the picture of Gustafson on display beside him. “I’ve thought about her so often.” Bush was a junior in college when she ate the contaminated spinach. When she first got sick, she said she felt like she had the flu, but within four days, she was hemorrhaging. Reid described the lasting effects the E. coli infection has had on Gustafson. She developed diabetes because of the damage to her pancreas and will need a kidney transplant before she turns 30. “There are far too many Americans with stories similar to Rylee’s and Lauren’s,” he said, also referencing the recent Listeria outbreak linked to Blue Bell ice cream. FSMA was enacted to shift the focus of food safety from response to prevention, but it can’t work “if it doesn’t have any money,” Reid said. “Current funding levels don’t provide the resources necessary to adequately fund programs to stop food contamination.” The minority leader added that the Food and Drug Administration never recovered from sequestration. “Congress must act to strengthen the food safety of our country and the Food Safety Modernization Act and we must do it now,” Reid said.