This essay was published on a different blog of mine on May 2, 2008:
I enjoy fast food. Cooking tends to interfere with my internet time and mess up my kitchen. I’m also cheap, though, so I don’t go out for burgers very often. When I do, however, each time I think of a boy I never met: Kevin Michael Kowalcyk. Kevin died from eating a hamburger.
I still have the pamphlet about the end of Kevin’s brief life and unnecessary death at the age of 2 1/2 due to E coli. The pamphlet outlines the history of governmental decisions that compromise the safety of food routinely given to children, such as the Supreme Beef decision in which it was decided by the courts that even though a meat plant failed Salmonella tests, the USDA had no authority to close it, thus allowing it to continue to provide tainted beef to school lunch programs.
The following information from the pamphlet explain what was sought in Kevin’s Law:
1. Require that USDA create and annually update a list of the most dangerous foodborne pathogens, like Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes.
2. Authorize the USDA to set tough limits for these hazards in meat and poultry.
3. Require that USDA test meat and poultry regularly to ensure that meat and poultry plants don’t exceed government limits on harmful bacteria.
4. Mandate that the USDA shut down plants that consistently fail to meet government food standards.
Unfortunately, if you do a web search of H.R. 3956 and Kevin’s Law, you’ll reach this web site http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h109-3160 which shows that the bill was only proposed. It was never debated in either the House or Senate. It was never even scheduled for debate.
S.T.O.P. — Safe Tables Our Priority, continues to fight against foodborne illness. Their website http://www.safetables.org/ includes Kevin’s story and his mother’s address to the Committee on Review of the Use of Scientific Criteria and Performance Standards for Safe Food, National Academy of Sciences http://www.safetables.org/Victim_Support/stories/kowalcyk_kevin.html.
Please stop and take time to check out these web sites. Please read Kevin’s story. Children and the elderly remain at high risk for serious complications or death from the food on the grill in their backyards or at the local burger place, and these risks are preventable.
Wishing you all the best, as always.