Girl's Bout with E.coli Helps Toughen Food Standards

HENDERSON, Nev. -- The family of a local girl who nearly died six years ago is feeling a sense of victory after the FDA announced it will release new guidelines to make food safer.

Rylee Gustafson and her mother, Kathleen Chrismer, have been advocating for more food safety since Rylee contracted E.coli from bagged spinach when she was 9 years old. The spinach was part of a nationwide outbreak that sickened dozens of people.

"The pain was horrible," Gustafson said.

Days after eating the spinach, she was in critical condition and her organs were starting to shut down.

"I didn't know what was happening to me."

Her sickness was traced back to a bag of contaminated spinach from a grocery store.

"It was a really big surprise to me because my family and I always eat healthy," she said.

 That same E.coli outbreak sickened 49 others around the country.

Since then, Rylee and her mother have been to Washington, D.C. seven times to ask for stricter safety standards on fruits and vegetables.

In 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act passed. It is the most sweeping reform in food safety laws in more than 70 years. It empowers the FDA to take stricter measures to prevent food borne illnesses by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.

"For Rylee, it was really impactful," said Chrismer. Her daughter felt like there was a purpose to her illness.

While the family feels as if it has scored a victory, Chrismer says Rylee will never be the same. 

"She's diabetic now, partially because of the incident. The chances of her needing a kidney transplant are very great."

"I don't want anyone to get sick like I did," Rylee said.

 


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