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Missouri Man Pleads with Congress for Tougher Food-Safety Laws

Kansas City native Paul A. Schwarz died in 2011 after eating cantaloupe tainted with listeria. (Paul Schwarz)
Kansas City native Paul A. Schwarz died in 2011 after eating cantaloupe tainted with listeria. (Paul Schwarz)
May 9, 2017

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – A Missouri resident is taking on Washington D.C. in the name of his father, who died of listeria poisoning.

Paul Schwarz of Independence just returned from a trip to the nation's capital, where he pleaded with senators and members of Congress not to cut food-safety regulations.

Scwarz's father died from eating listeria-tainted cantaloupe in 2011. Schwarz is calling for stronger food-safety protections to prevent deaths from foodborne illness, and he's worried it will be impossible to put in place protections such as the FDA's recent food-safety rules if new regulatory-reform bills pass as the Trump administration has proposed.

"When you start messing with people's health, you start messing with clean water, clean air, with pathogens, listeria, e.Coli, salmonella, that's where you should draw the line," he says. "People's health should be the main issue."

In the health-care bill the House passed last week, there is a 12-percent cut to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's budget, which could slow state food-safety investigations.

Schwarz is also concerned about the Regulatory Accountability Act (H.R 5), which he says would put corporate profits before public safety. Backers of the bill say there are too many costly and unnecessary constraints on businesses.

The D.C. trip was put together by the Natural Resources Defense Council. It included people who have been harmed by exposure to unsafe food and toxic chemicals in their homes, workplaces and communities.

Schwarz says the idea was to let lawmakers hear real stories so they will consider putting stronger food-safety regulations in place, as opposed to weakening them as proposed by the Trump administration.

"That's saying, 'Hey, we're going to take away all safeguards for the public, for us,'" he adds. "This used to be 'we the government of the people.' Now, it's, 'We the government of the corporations.'"

Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Rob Portman of Ohio are co-authors of H.R 5. It passed the House and has been sent to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. If approved by the senators, it would be sent to President Trump, who has launched a campaign to slash regulations on businesses.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO