Galler said her mistake was thawing the frozen ground beef on the kitchen counter for three hours, rather than allowing the meat to defrost in the refrigerator. The E. coli that was present, but dormant, in the frozen meat began to grow again at room temperature.
"I paid the ultimate price." she says. "Every day (my husband and I) live in grief and disbelief. I just can't believe that people can die from eating contaminated food in this day and age. This is a horrific, hideous disease for any child to suffer. . . . My daughter was perfectly healthy (before the E. coli infection)."
The plaintiffs in the suit--the National Grocers Assn., the National-American Wholesale Grocers Assn., and the Texas Food Industry Assn.--might sympathize with the Gallers, but they emphasized that their motivation in the lawsuit stemmed from opposition to burdensome regulations, not in squelching food safety information.
A senior vice president with the National Grocers Assn., Thomas F. Wenning, said the lawsuit was "successful in protecting the industry's rights."
"This is a victory for fairness over bureaucracy," said Bruce Gates, vice president for National-American Wholesale Grocers.
But the American Meat Institute, another trade group that had tepidly endorsed the labeling plan, said the court's last-minute decision did not have any practical effect.
"The fact is that millions of safe-handling labels are already in the pipeline, and a judge's rule, hours before a deadline, cannot turn off the faucet that quickly," said J. Patrick Boyle, Meat Institute president. "This industry took the safe-handling rules seriously and made an enormous investment to attempt to comply with the rule despite the short time frame for implementation and the confusions surrounding the rule's specific requirements."
"The consumer should not be fearful of eating meat," Galler told The Times. "But they should know that there is a potential hazard . . . . Labels are essential."