An Iowa woman, whose teenage daughter died from a foodborne illness, is heading to Washington D.C. today to join others for a rally outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dana Boner and her husband Rick do not expect to ever know exactly what killed their 14-year-old daughter Kayla in November 2007.
But, Dana says the U.S.D.A. could prevent further deaths and illnesses by putting new regulations in place to identify dangerous pathogens that contaminate food products. “If your child is killed by a gun or by a person, we look for a killer – but when it’s meat or food poisoning, it’s done,” Boner told Radio Iowa.
“You have no answers what happened, why it happened, how could it happen…there’s nothing you can do.” Currently, the U.S.D.A. requires testing for one strain of E. coli – O157. The national food safety group Safe Tables Our Priority, or S.T.O.P., is asking the federal government to test for six other strains of E. coli.
The Boners believe their daughter contracted E. coli from eating tainted meat, but Dana says there’s no way to trace it back to a particular product. Kayla had the E. coli strain O111, which is currently not tested for in food products. Dana will meet with members of S.T.O.P. in Washington today before taking part in a demonstration outside the U.S.D.A. offices on Thursday.
Dana says she’s becoming more comfortable in her role as a food safety advocate. “I’ve actually, just this last year, become more active,” Boner said. “I think I’ve come to grips with the shock or reality of everything where I can handle myself to do a little bit more. If it saves one person’s life or one less person gets sick, it’s worth it.”
Boner views her efforts as a way to keep Kayla’s memory alive. “She wanted to go to the University of Iowa, play basketball and become a pediatrician. Those were her goals in life…at least this way, I can save somebody’s life in a different way.” Dana and Rick Boner live in Monroe in south-central Iowa.