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Colorado Woman Plays Key Role In Changes To Food Safety Legislation

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DENVER (CBS) - Spinach, eggs and lettuce have all been linked to nationwide outbreaks of foodborne illness.

A new law signed by President Obama on Tuesday is aimed at making our food supply safer. The law emphasizes prevention to fight illnesses like salmonella and E. coli. It also calls for increasing government inspections at food processing plants.

A Colorado woman who got sick played a big role in the passage of the new law.

Carol Lobato was raised tending chickens on an Iowa farm. So it is a strange twist of fate that the 77-year-old nearly died last year from an egg produced at an Iowa farm.

The egg was served raw in an appetizer at the Fort restaurant in Morrison. It was traced back to an Iowa farm linked to a massive salmonella outbreak and nationwide egg recall. It was the latest in a string of food poisoning outbreaks.

“It is just a constant thing, and we need the protection for our food products,” Lobato said.

Lobato testified before Congress convincing lawmakers for the first time in 80 years to overhaul our country’s food safety program.

The president signed the legislation into law, but some Republicans are threatening to withhold funding. They argue the cost of implementation, $1.4 billion, is too steep.

Supporters say the cost of food poisoning outbreaks is higher still.

“If the law is a huge success a lot of that success is going to be invisible. You’re not going to see as many people sick,” Erik Olson, the Director of Food and Safety with the Pew Health Group said.

Lobato, who is still recovering 6 months later, said she understands the need to cut spending but said food safety is not the place to do it.

“We should be able to go to the supermarket and assume it’s safe,” Lobato said.

While some Republicans have threatened to withhold funding for the new law, that is highly unlikely. The bill passed with bipartisan support in the House and Senate.

One of the biggest changes is that is allows the government to order a recall of tainted food instead of negotiating a voluntary recall.

The CDC said 48 million Americans get food poisoning every year and 3,000 die from it.

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