Incorporated as a not-for-profit in California in 1994, STOP began as a grassroots effort. The U.S. government and non-governmental organizations were not addressing this public safety issue and STOP stepped in to fill the void. The founders knew that increasing awareness about foodborne pathogens had to be a guiding principle.
Initially, STOP learned that there is not a singular government agency – there are many – that oversee food safety in the U.S. We also identified the lack of effective communication at all levels of governmental hierarchy – federal, state and local. It was clear that we weren’t the only organization seeking answers. As STOP became more knowledgeable of how food becomes contaminated, the weaknesses of the system and the complexity of the challenge of preventing foodborne illness became very apparent.
Learning that the United States government — our government — had known about emerging foodborne pathogens but lacked a comprehensive plan to combat them was disheartening. It was identified that as early as 1982, scientists and pathologists had been quietly warning the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Congress, and the media that a failure to inspect meat and poultry for bacteria would lead to a food safety disaster.
Time was of the essence and although there was significant resistance at every turn, STOP knew it held the truth.
STOP added its strong voice to the Safe Food Coalition, a group of consumer, public health and labor organizations which has advocated for improvements to the food safety system, particularly with respect to meat and poultry, since 1986. Industry held power, influence, and money. Victims’ families and survivors held onto lives that had been irreparably altered by foodborne illness. Families continued to tell their stories through the advocacy of STOP and its coalition partners.
STOP’s voices became a clarion call for change and eventually STOP was invited to participate in policy making. After countless hours spent educating the USDA and the meat industry about the devastation caused by E. coli, STOP became a key element in facilitating the first meat and poultry reforms since 1906. In 1996, STOP founders Roni and Nancy, were invited to witness this historic overhaul being signed into law by President Clinton.