Two women nearly killed by salmonella-tainted eggs testify on their continuing ordeal

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Sept. 22 - August's massive recall of 500 million Iowa eggs traced to over 1,500 illnesses in eleven states got personal Wednesday when two victims testified in House hearings.

Last May, months before salmonella poisoning finally was traced to large-volume DeCoster egg farms in Iowa, Sara Lewis, a 30-year-old California woman with daughters aged 7 and 4, attended a banquet to celebrate her sister's college graduation. Custard tart at the banquet sickened both Sara and her sister. After an agonizing night at home, Sara began the first of two long hospital stays. She was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit where “I started to have severe tachycardia and was then moved to a critical care Heart Unit for three days.”

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Two survivors of salmonella poisoning, Sarah Lewis and Carol Lobato, testify in House hearing Wednesday. Photo: Agri-Pulse.

After her second and even more traumatic hospital stay, Sara told House Energy & Commerce Committee members, “I had to be on antibiotics every 6 hours for 14 days again. And during all this I found out that my salmonella poisoning was still present and raging.” Today, nearly four months later, she testified that “I still have severe cramping diarrhea, fevers, and also the stress and fear that my salmonella is still in my body.”

Lewis's story is even more compelling because her family owns a retail butcher shop, Freedom Meat Lockers. She explained that “we have to go through weekly state inspections and quarterly country inspections. We have to maintain and uphold a certain standard, and we are rated the #1 butcher shop in California for cleanliness and sanitation.” She told committee members that “To think that my sister and I got sick from a company that does not care about their regulations and quality is appalling to my family and me.”

Lewis concluded her testimony with a plea to Congress. Telling members that its “up to you” to prevent future salmonella outbreaks, she asked them to “Please consider changing your FDA [Food & Drug Administration inspection] polices to more closely monitor the egg industry.”

Responding to that plea, committee members voiced their strong support for the food safety legislation passed by the House and still stalled by procedural wrangling in the Senate.

The second woman testifying Wednesday in the House Energy & Commerce subcommittee hearing on “The Outbreak of Salmonella in Eggs” was 77-year-old Carol Lobato. She was poisoned in July by eggs used in a cake served in a high-end restaurant where she lives in Colorado.

Lobato explained that she grew up on an Iowa farm where one of her daily chores was “tending to hens kept for egg production.” She pointed out that “We never had any problems on our farm because we kept things clean, took proper care of our chickens, and did things the right way.”

Lobato testified that after nearly being killed by salmonella poisoning, she's still suffering the aftereffects. Clearly determined to do what she can to prevent having other people go through the same ordeal she endured, she called on Congress to pass food safety legislation.

Echoing House members who blamed Congress for failing to act following similar outbreaks in past years, Lobato said: “Three years ago, this country suffered a horrible salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated peanut butter that sickened over 700 people nationwide. Last year, our country was struck by another peanut butter salmonella outbreak that sickened another 700 people, tragically killing nine. Both times, survivors like me came before this committee asking for help. But this time I am the one asking you, on behalf of myself, my family and the 1,500 others who were sickened, please make our food system safer. Pass legislation that provides more funding and more inspectors to keep these companies from cutting corners on safety. Pass legislation that requires more testing of products before they leave the factories. Pass legislation that rewards companies that do things right, and punishes those who refuse. Because if you don't, we will be here again.”

For more coverage of the salmonella hearing, with Republicans and Democrats clashing over who's to blame and what to do next, go to:

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