STOP Foodborne Illness

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STOP Foodborne Illness
Founded 1993
Type 501(c)3
Focus Humanitarian
Area served
US and Canada
Method Assistance and Advocacy
Slogan Your Voice For Safe Food.

STOP Foodborne Illness, formerly known as Safe Tables Our Priority (S.T.O.P.), is a non-profit public health organization in the United States dedicated to the prevention of illness and death from foodborne pathogens.[1] Founded following the West Coast E. coli O157:H7 outbreak of 1993 in California and the Pacific Northwest, its public health work has focused on advocating for sound public policy, building public awareness, and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. STOP's headquarters are in Chicago, Illinois.


STOP formed as a grassroots organization out of the collective grief and anger of parents of victims of a major 1993 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with Jack in the Box hamburgers. The outbreak, which resulted in the death of four children and more than 700 people falling ill, garnered nationwide media attention.[1]

A myriad of government agencies oversee food safety — therefore there is a lack of effective communication between federal, state and local agencies. Although branches of the federal government were aware of emerging foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7, they did not have a comprehensive plan to combat them nor had they adequately informed the public of their dangers. Scientists and consumer advocates 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. In response, STOP’s early message to American consumers was that certain foods had the potential to present a serious risk to their health and to the lives of their family members.[2]

Conversations with USDA and the meat industry focused on the devastation and significant illness that is caused by E. coli O157:H7. STOP pushed for warning messages to be delivered to consumers when food contamination was suspected and encountered significant resistance. However, after fighting the resistance, a victory was experienced in 1996 when STOP was invited to sit at the policymaking table, becoming a key player in facilitating the first meat and poultry inspection reforms since 1906.[2]

The organization is focused on affecting change in food handling and processing at the beginning of the food chain. It provides a national service to victims and families needing immediate and long-term assistance.

In a 2015 Award Ceremony for Food Safety Heroes, Mike Taylor, the FDA's Deputy Commissioner for Food, stated that

"STOP created the culture of food safety that absolutely has been the driver of everything that’s happened since. It had an immediate effect on the meat industry" and that he is "convinced that [STOP is the] catalyst, and that change of mindset has had a transformative effect on the food system in this country.”

STOP achievements in food safety[3][edit]


  • STOP forms under the name Safe Tables Our Priority.


  • STOP holds congressional symposium on meat inspection in Washington, DC.
  • STOP assists in passing new rules for handling/warning labels on all meat and poultry products.[4]


  • STOP presents 100,000 signed postcards to Congress in support of safer meat.


  • STOP participates by invitation in a White House press conference opposing deregulation of the food industry.
  • STOP is instrumental in passing HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points), the first national meat and poultry inspection reforms in 90 years.[5]


  • Passage of the Lauren Beth Rudolph Food Safety Act (AB 396) in California is a win for STOP members.[6]


  • STOP wins mandatory consumer health warning labels for unpasteurized juices.[7]
  • STOP convinces USDA to release accurate cooking information to consumers.
  • In Meat and Poultry magazine, STOP is named one of the Top 10 Influential Powerhouses in the Meat and Poultry Industry.[8]


  • STOP president Nancy Donley is named Community Champion by Civil Justice Foundation and receives the Consumer Federation of America's Golden Carrot Award.


  • STOP wins introduction of microbial testing and zero tolerance for pathogens in school lunch meat.[citation needed]
  • STOP spurs critical improvements to the recall process for contaminated meat.[citation needed]
  • STOP co-produces a brochure with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to inform parents of small children.


  • STOP organizes rally for safer food in Washington, DC.
  • STOP wins mandatory pasteurization for all bulk juices.[9]


  • STOP prevents reversal of the zero tolerance policy for Salmonella in school lunch meat.[citation needed]
  • STOP exposes ongoing distribution of recalled meat in the school lunch program.[citation needed]
  • STOP testifies before joint Congressional committee regarding contamination in school lunches.[citation needed]


  • STOP assists in organizing, and has several victim speakers participate in, the Families and Patients Forum on Foodborne Disease sponsored by the U.S. House of Representative's Food Safety Caucus.


  • STOP works with the CDC's Food Safe School Coalition to produce a video and school food safety kit to be distributed nationwide.
  • STOP releases groundbreaking report, Why Are People Still Dying From Contaminated Food?


  • STOP works closely with Congress in introducing the Safe Food Act of 2005, calling for a single food safety agency.[citation needed]
  • STOP speaks out about antibiotic-resistant Salmonella bacteria in America's beef supply.


  • STOP participates in USDA's Food Safety Education Conference in Denver, CO and speaks on the economic and emotional burden of foodborne illness.
  • STOP begins Community Tours program, holding events in the homes and offices of STOP members across the country teaching food safety and promoting STOP's mission.


  • STOP moves its headquarters to Chicago.


  • STOP speaks in Geneva, Switzerland, at the invitation of the World Health Organization at a conference on the global burden of foodborne disease.
  • STOP testifies before Congress on carbon monoxide issue in meat and calls for a re-examination of the process as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by FDA.[citation needed]


  • STOP holds an event in New York with public health and nutrition author Marion Nestle.


  • STOP is invited to meet with the USDA to share concerns on the need to declare non-O157:H7 E. coli bacteria as adulterants in the meat supply.
  • STOP holds a rally in front of the Department of Agriculture building in Washington, DC, asking them to declare non-O157:H7 E. coli bacteria as adulterants in our meat supply.


  • STOP board president and spokesperson, Nancy Donley, received the National Science Foundation Food Safety Lifetime Achievement Award for her dedication to advocating for a safer food supply.
  • STOP assisted in the Passage of HR 2751: The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, which marks the first food safety legislation in over 70 years.[10]


  • Six strains of non-O157 E. coli bacteria are declared adulterants by the USDA. The strains are O26, O45, O103, O111, O121 and O145.[11]


  • STOP staff and victim advocates make public comments at the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) hearings in Washington, DC; Chicago, IL; and Portland, OR.


  • STOP works with FDA during FSMA Proposed Rule for Preventive Controls for Human Food, Animal Food, and for Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP) for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals.
  • STOP staff and victim advocates make public comments at the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) listening events in Atlanta, GA; [12] Washington, DC; Greensboro, NC; and South Royalton, VT.
  • STOP public speaking events include FDA South East Retail Seminar in Savannah, GA;[13]and Food Safety Consortium in Schaumburg, IL.[14]


  • STOP worked with members of the Safe Food Coalition to support passage of a rule requiring labeling of mechanically tenderized beef products to be implemented in 2016, rather than waiting until 2018 as originally required under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) labeling regulations.[15]
  • STOP public speaking events include the Food Safety Summit in Baltimore, MD;[16] the 5th Euro-Global Summit and Expo on Food & Beverages in Alicante, Spain;[17] and the FDA Northeast Retail Seminar in Troy, NY.[18]



STOP actively participates in three food safety coalitions to create and provide press releases, public service announcements, public comments, and personal stories to journalists and media outlets. On the federal and state levels, public testimony for proposed and pending legislation is provided. STOP’s consumer representation is important during meetings with agencies such as the USDA, FDA, and CDC. Staff and board members interface with stakeholders regarding food safety programs, further sharing members' united concerns.

Building public awareness[edit]

E-Alerts are sent out on Facebook, Twitter, and email, which keep constituents (31,000 in database) up-to-date with news regarding recalled food and potentially harmful outbreaks. In addition to e-Alerts, a monthly eNews letter is published highlighting news and stories regarding topical food safety issues, how people have been personally impacted, STOP events, how to get one's voice heard, and other relevant information.

Webinars are an important tool as well. Educational, interactive webinars on food safety and legislative topics educate the public about preventing foodborne illness, regulations affecting food handling/preparation and getting active with advocacy. Beyond efforts to raise awareness, STOP regularly exhibits and speaks at food safety and other events including the International Food Safety Conference, the Food Safety Summit, and AARP’s annual conference. Presentations to high-risk groups for children and the elderly, peer organizations, environmental health agencies and others are especially important. On STOP's website, a variety of information is available, including research on foodborne illnesses, opportunities for volunteers, and materials such as factsheets about food safety topics, consumer information, and tips to mitigate food safety risks.

Victim assistance[edit]

STOP provides peer-to-peer mentoring that matches new victims with others who have gone through similar situations to provide support and guidance.

A toll-free helpline (1-800-350-STOP) is for the public to call and ask food safety questions. The helpline also provides assistance with issues pertaining to foodborne illness. Tips on how to navigate the public health and medical system are important to overwhelmed victims and families. The organization's website provides a medium to share one's story, become an advocate for a safer food supply, and provides information advantageous to those affected by foodborne illness or seeking education on the subject.

Coalitions and Partnerships[20][edit]


  1. ^ a b "Name Change for Food Safety Advocacy Group STOP". Food Safety News. 21 April 2011. Retrieved 15 March 2012. 
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^
  4. ^ (1993, October 31). New Rules for Safe Handling Labels on Raw Meat. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  5. ^ (July 9, 1996). Upgrading the Safety of Meat. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  6. ^ Zugger, Abigail. (June 27, 2011). A Timely E. Coli Story, Spun as a Legal Thriller. The New York Times.
  7. ^ Burros, Marian. (July 1, 1998). EATING WELL; Is it Pasteurized? Juice Labels Will Tell. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  8. ^ Jolley, C. (1998, February). The Top 10 Influentials. Meat & Poultry, 16.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Neuman, William. (December 21, 2010). House Passes Overhaul of Food Laws. The New York Times. Retrieved from
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