When Californian Laurie Girand’s three-year-old daughter, Anna, suffered excruciating pain and a terrifying diagnosis of hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) after being poisoned by a popular unpasteurized apple juice, her awe-inspiring journey to becoming a food safety warrior began.

Now a longtime supporter of STOP Foodborne Illness, Laurie talked with us recently to explore why she’s passionate about what we do and why she gives.

Summing up her feelings, Laurie told us:

“All of the victims who’ve lost loved ones or had loved ones maimed by eating contaminated food motivate our support. The bottom line is that STOP saves lives, and donations are the lifeblood that makes its work possible. That’s why my husband, Scott McGregor, and I give, and it’s incredibly rewarding.”

A Mad-As-Hell Mother Fights for Change and Finds STOP

Laurie first became involved with Safe Tables Our Priority (renamed STOP Foodborne Illness in 2011) in 1997, soon after Anna fell ill in the fall of 1996.

“In December 1996, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a meeting with juice producers to introduce new safety regulations. When I learned NO victims were invited to attend, I was livid,” Laurie explains.

Channeling her frustration—and fueled by a vision of putting victims and their stories front and center with lawmakers—Laurie called the FDA. She also connected with the like-minded Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which attended the FDA meeting. It’s through this initial conversation with CSPI that Laurie was introduced to STOP.

“The dedicated, passionate, caring people at STOP supported my produce focus. I was hooked and wanted to help,” shares Laurie. “For five years, I volunteered extensively on behalf of STOP. I traveled at my own expense multiple times to Sacramento and Washington, DC for many different advocacy efforts. And I authored a dozen sets of public comments with compelling scientific details about microbial contamination.”

Laurie’s unmatched passion as the mother of a young foodborne illness victim and her many talents have been a powerful formula in the fight for much-needed regulatory change.

“Volunteering with STOP became a core part of who I was,” recalls Laurie. “It was especially gratifying to win an award from the FDA for my advocacy work. And, in 2002, a speech of mine was published in Representative American Speeches, 2001-2002.”

Making Victims’ Voices Heard: The Heart of the Matter

As Laurie learned more about the landmines that lurked in the food safety system, one thing was crystal clear: Far more advocacy from victims and their loved ones held the key to positive change.

And STOP’s focus fit that bill perfectly.

“STOP delivers the real-life, human impact of foodborne illness to Washington, DC,” emphasizes Laurie. “By bringing victims to meet with lawmakers and share their stories of heartbreaking loss and lives changed forever, STOP puts politicians smack dab in the middle of the pain, devastation, and suffering that people endure. When a politician takes to heart that it could have been their daughter or mother who died or got very sick, it becomes real for them.”

If you’ve been a part of the STOP community for any length of time, you’ve undoubtedly seen that making victims’ voices heard has been a blueprint for STOP’s success. It served as the catalyst for our founding, and it’s at the very essence of what makes us so effective to this day.

As Laurie points out, “Without strong advocacy on the part of victims, Washington would operate in a vacuum, with government at industry’s beck and call. Many people within our government regulatory organizations struggle to do the right thing, while Congress tries to de-fund their projects if regulations in any way cost more to the food industry. STOP acts as a critical bulwark, reminding them over and over again that most foodborne illnesses and deaths are unnecessary and preventable.”

Laurie’s affinity for STOP is closely tied to victim advocacy, but she’s a champion for all aspects of STOP’s work.

“Consumer education, victim assistance, and political advocacy are synergistic components because, with an investment in each, all grow stronger,”
notes Laurie.

Longtime Volunteering Inspires Loyal Giving

Along the way, Laurie’s list of volunteer contributions continued to grow.

She served on STOP’s Advisory Board for many years and later joined the Board of Directors.

But a move to Europe made her hands-on help nearly impossible. Over the years, Laurie had also observed fundraising challenges around foodborne illness.

“Many fundraising events are set up around food. But it’s hard to hold an event, feed people, and simultaneously raise awareness of how much risk is really involved in our food supply,” Laurie points out.

So, Laurie sat down with her husband and they decided that making annual, unrestricted donations to STOP would be the best way to continue supporting its life-saving work.

“We’re so proud and happy to give, and our giving has grown over time,” says Laurie. “At the same time our Anna was poisoned, another little girl named Anna died from the same food. After going through a near-tragic experience with our daughter, and feeling so grateful that Anna’s life was spared, the importance of STOP’s work hit home. In honor of all victims, we support STOP.”

Laurie’s Message to You: “Please Give. We Need You.”

When someone is struck by a foodborne illness, STOP is there with an outstretched hand to help the victim and their family cope.

“When you give to STOP, you provide reassuring support and a plethora of resources and opportunities that victims of foodborne illness simply cannot find anywhere else,” says Laurie. “You make a very scary time feel less frightening and less lonely. And you make it possible for STOP to keep growing their advocacy movement, which holds tremendous promise for improving food safety laws to help prevent foodborne illness.”

Make Your Gift Today!

Your donation is needed urgently to help STOP move forward more swiftly with vital food safety initiatives in its strategic plan, such as doing everything possible to make sure our government fully funds the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

GIVE ONLINE: Click here to donate online.

GIVE BY MAIL: Mail your check payable to STOP Foodborne Illness to 3759 N. Ravenswood Avenue, Suite #224, Chicago, IL 60613.

GIVE BY PHONE: Call 773-269-6555.

On behalf of Laurie, Anna, and all victims touched by foodborne illness, thank you so much in advance for your support!

Laurie Girand is a retired technology strategic consultant living in San Juan Capistrano, CA. In addition to her staunch support of STOP, Laurie enjoys volunteering at her children’s school and as an American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) soccer coach.