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Teenager Pens Children’s Book to Help Create Food Safety Superstars

Sunday, September 21, 2014 22:20
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Dana Dziadul, a 16-year-old from Wake Forest, NC, has been a tireless advocate for food safety since she became a victim of foodborne illness, and she is now the author of a free children’s book about safe food practices.

“Food Safety Superstar” teaches kids four practices for staying safe: washing hands, cleaning counters and tables, keeping cold and fresh foods cold, and making sure food is fully cooked before eating it.

Dziadul originally wrote the book three years ago, but she said it became a reality once her 15-year-old schoolmate, Emmi Lehto, finished the illustrations.

Michael Taylor, the Food and Drug Administration’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, said he felt honored to present at the book’s release Friday at the U.S. Capitol and to celebrate “a gorgeous piece of work.”

Taylor, who has known Dziadul for the past seven years, called her a “great leader,” adding that, “We at FDA just want to thank you enormously for what you’re doing.”

In 2001, the then-3-year-old Dziadul fell ill with an infection of Salmonella Poona in her bloodstream after eating contaminated cantaloupe.

Her parents took her to the emergency room when she developed a fever of 104 degrees F, bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps that made her scream with pain. She was hospitalized for weeks, and her doctors weren’t sure she would survive.

Dziadul recovered in time, but, years later, she was diagnosed with reactive arthritis, a condition brought on by her infection that affects her everyday life.

“One of the things that is so crucial about what Dana and others who have been injured by foodborne illness bring to the table is the understanding that we’re not talking about lots of stomach aches. We’re talking about life-changing illness in many cases,” Taylor said. “It’s very important for the world to know that.”

Understanding the human impact is what motivates efforts to improve the food safety system, such as implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), he said. It’s “a fundamental duty” of food producers to do all they can to prevent contamination and of the government to ensure that happens.

Taylor joked that FDA was releasing its revised FSMA provisions on the same day in honor of Dziadul and her book.

Dziadul said that she continues to advocate for food safety because she would never want to see her 7-year-old sister, Jenna, go through the same pain and suffering that she did.

And, despite the challenges she faces today and in the future from her arthritis, she considers herself blessed to be a survivor and to continue to share her story that will “hopefully make a difference.”


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