WASHINGTON — Families victimized by tainted spinach and peanut butter put a human face Tuesday on recent high-profile outbreaks of food-borne illness, urging lawmakers to strengthen federal oversight of the nation's food supply.
"I can't protect them from spinach -- only you guys can. I can't," said Michael Armstrong, as he and wife, Elizabeth, cradled daughters Ashley, 2, and Isabella, 5. The two girls fell ill -- Ashley gravely -- in September after eating a salad made with a bag of the leafy greens contaminated by E. coli bacteria.
That and other incidents of contamination have raised questions not only about the U.S. food supply but also efforts by the Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies to keep it safe.
"I hope these hearings will help alert the American people, Congress and the administration to the seriousness of this issue," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations
Said Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), "I don't see the latest string of incidents as aberrations. It's become a systemic problem and it calls for systemic solutions."
DeGette has introduced legislation that would give the FDA and the Agriculture Department the authority to mandate recalls.