November 2016


AP report at that health officials say three people died and at least five more were sickened after eating Thanksgiving dinner at an event organized by a church in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch said Monday it received eight patients with probably food borne symptoms between Friday and Saturday. It says three of the patients died, four patients were treated and released and one remains hospitalized.

San Francisco television station KTVU reports Golden Hills Community Church confirmed it hosted the dinner at the American Legion Hall in Antioch on Thanksgiving. A call to the church was not immediately returned.

The Contra Costa Public Health Department is investigating and says there is no current risk to the general public.

UPDATE:  At least 17 people were sickened in the outbreak of a foodborne illness that apparently killed three in East Contra Costa County, authorities said Tuesday, as evidence mounted that the cause was a church-sponsored Thanksgiving dinner in which much of the food was prepared in homes.

A day after saying that a county health permit was not required for the community dinner that served more than 800 people at the American Legion Hall in Antioch, Contra Costa County health officials said Tuesday they will now investigate whether a permit should be required of Brentwood’s Golden Hills Community Church next year, if the dinner continues. Such a permit would subject its serving facilities to a county health inspection and require that no food be served that was prepared in private homes or from unlicensed facilities.

The Antioch meal’s organizer, Jeff Oransky, said that the instant mashed potatoes and stovetop stuffing were made at the American Legion site and the green beans were warmed up there, but everything else was brought in from the homes of volunteers.

Those who fell sick range in age from their “teens to their 70s,” Underwood said.

The three people who died came to the event from two assisted living facilities, Minerva’s Place and Minerva’s Place IV, according to a spokesman for the Department of Social Services, a further indication that the community dinner was the source of the illness.

The facilities are two of four assisted living residential care facilities for the elderly operated by Minerva in southwest Antioch.


HonoreeBadgeEditors of the ABA Journal announced today they have selected MARLER BLOG as one of the top 100 best blogs for a legal audience.

HALL OF FAME: Bill Marler has consistently earned a place on our Blawg 100 list, and it’s not just because the tales of food poisoning outbreaks recounted on his blog keep us up at night. We feel he has truly proven how blogs can help lawyers with niche practices become sought-after experts.

In addition, the magazine has added 10 more bloggers to its Blawg 100 Hall of Fame, featuring the very best law blogs, known for their untiring ability to craft high-quality, engaging posts sometimes on a daily basis.  In 2012, we established the Blawg 100 Hall of Fame for those blogs which had consistently been outstanding throughout multiple Blawg 100 lists.

“For 10 years, the Blawg 100 has helped shine a light on the stunning breadth of legal topics and voices to found in the legal blogosphere,” Acting Editor-Publisher Molly McDonough said. “Journal editors have selected yet another stellar list of blogs. We hope you’ll find legal information sources in this list that are completely new to you and bookmark them for regular reading.”

HallofFame200pxV3About the ABA Journal:

The ABA Journal is the flagship magazine of the American Bar Association, and it is read by half of the nation’s 1.1 million lawyers every month. It covers the trends, people and finances of the legal profession from Wall Street to Main Street to Pennsylvania Avenue. features breaking legal news updated as it happens by staff reporters throughout every business day, a directory of more than 4,000 lawyer blogs, and the full contents of the magazine.

About the ABA:

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

Sabra-Classic-HummusSabra Dipping Co., LLC is voluntarily recalling certain hummus products made prior to November 8, 2016 due to concerns over Listeria monocytogenes, which was identified at the manufacturing facility but not in tested finished product. The recall includes the products listed below; these were distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts and supermarkets, in the U.S. and Canada.

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.  Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.  The company is issuing this recall out of an abundance of caution.

Consumers with any product with a “Best Before” date up through January 23, 2017 are urged to discard it. Consumers can find code and “Best Before” date on the lid of each package.

See complete list of recalled products.

And, it happened in 2015 too.

fresh-whole-turkey-2000x1125-1940x1091To avoid making everyone at the table sick, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) offers five tips for a food safe Thanksgiving:

Tip 1: Don’t Wash That Turkey.

According to the most recent Food Safety Survey, conducted by the Food and Drug Administration, 68 percent of the public washes whole turkey before cooking it. USDA does not recommend washing raw meat and poultry before cooking. Washing raw meat and poultry can cause bacteria to spread up to three feet away. Cooking (baking, broiling, boiling, frying or grilling) meat and poultry to the right temperature kills any bacteria that may be present, so washing meat and poultry is not necessary.

Tip 2: Use the refrigerator, the cold-water method or the microwave to defrost a frozen turkey.

There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water and in the microwave oven. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method because the turkey will defrost at a consistent, safe temperature. It will take 24 hours for every 5 pounds of weight for a turkey to thaw in the refrigerator. To thaw in cold water, submerge the bird in its original wrapper in cold tap water, changing the water every 30 minutes. For instructions on microwave defrosting, refer to your microwave’s owner’s manual. Cold water and microwave thawing can also be used if your bird did not entirely defrost in the refrigerator.

Tip 3: Use a meat thermometer.

The only way to determine if a turkey (or any meat, poultry or seafood) is cooked is to check its internal temperature with a food thermometer. A whole turkey should be checked in three locations: the innermost part of the thigh, the innermost part of the wing and the thickest part of the breast. Your thermometer should register 165°F in all three of these places. The juices rarely run clear at this temperature, and when they do the bird is often overcooked. Using the food thermometer is the best way to ensure your turkey is cooked, but not overdone.

Tip 4: Don’t store food outside, even if it’s cold.

Storing food outside is not food safe for two reasons. The first is that animals, both wild and domesticated, can get into food stored outside, consuming it or contaminating it. The second is temperature variation. Just like your car gets warm in the summer, a plastic food storage container in the sun can heat up and climb into the danger zone (above 40°F). The best way to keep that extra Thanksgiving food at a safe temperature (below 40°F) is in a cooler with ice.

Tip 5: Leftovers are good in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Cut the turkey off the bone and refrigerate it as soon as you can, within 2 hours of the turkey coming out of the oven. Leftovers will last for four days in the refrigerator, so if you know you won’t use them right away, pack them into freezer bags or airtight containers and freeze. For best quality, use your leftover turkey within four months. After that, the leftovers will still be safe, but can dry out or lose flavor.

If not, pay attention to the incubation periods:

Screen Shot 2016-11-24 at 6.31.10 PM

ALFALFA-SPROUTS-1LiveScience reporter, Sara G. Miller, reported on a recent FDA presentation at IDWeek on the risks of sprouts.  According to Ms. Miller, “sprout contamination continues to pose a serious public health concern,” the researchers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wrote in their report. The findings on sprouts were presented on Oct. 28 at IDWeek 2016, a meeting in New Orleans of several organizations focused on infectious diseases.

According to FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network, from 1996 to August 2016, 48 outbreaks of illness were associated with sprouts, the researchers found.  Alfalfa sprouts were the most common culprit during the study period, with 30 outbreaks. There were seven outbreaks linked to clover sprouts, six outbreaks linked to mung bean sprouts, two outbreaks linked to unspecified sprouts, two outbreaks linked to multiple sprout types and one outbreak linked to a food ingredient called sprouted chia powder. Sprouts carried a number of different types of bacteria, the researchers found. Salmonella was implicated in the greatest number of outbreaks, at 35, followed by Escherichia coli (11 outbreaks) and Listeria (two outbreaks), according to the report. Of the three sprout-related deaths during the study period, two were attributed to Salmonella and one to Listeria.

Sprouts “certainly rank up there” among types of produce that have been linked to outbreaks, said Dr. Kathleen Gensheimer, the director of the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation Network and the lead author of the study.

Sprouts’ propensity to harbor dangerous bacteria has to do with how they are grown, Gensheimer told Live Science. To grow sprouts, seeds are placed in water in a warm, humid environment that is ideal for rapid bacterial growth, she said.

Currently, the U.S. government says that people who are the most at-risk for infectious diseases should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind, Gensheimer said. This includes children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, she said.

STOP_LogoTagline_RGB-borderSTOP Foodborne Illness, the Chicago-based national advocacy and education organization, will honor three Food Safety Heroes at an interactive fundraising event 7-9 p.m., Tuesday, December 6 during the Food Safety Consortium at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center (1551 Thoreau Drive N, Schaumburg, IL 60173). The benefit is open to the public.

Guests will enjoy live jazz, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in celebration of three exceptional individuals who have had an impact on making food safer for everyone.

Additionally, there will be a silent auction with proceeds going toward STOP Foodborne Illness. Items include a signed baseball from 2016 World Series Champion and National League MVP Kris Bryant; a guitar signed by musical legend Paul McCartney; another guitar signed by Eddie Van Halen; Robert De Niro memorabilia, and more. These keepsakes make great last minute holiday gifts for friends and family and can also be bid on before the event, now through noon on December 5th, online.

Tickets are $65 per person and can be purchased here.

STOP would like to thank Food Safety Tech and Walmart Corporation for sponsoring the evening and for their relentless efforts to make the world a healthier place by raising awareness of food safety and providing safe, quality food for customers.

About the Honorees

Jeff Almer (of Savage, MN) will be accepting the STOP Foodborne Illness 2016 Legacy Tribute award in memory of his mother, Shirley, who died from Salmonella in 2008. Dr. Robert Tauxe (of Atlanta, GA), director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases in National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease (NCEZID), will be honored as the STOP Foodborne Illness 2016 Advancing Science for Food Safety Hero. Scott Horsfall (of Sacramento, CA), on behalf of California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA), will be recognized as STOP Foodborne Illness 2016 Excellence in Food Safety Training Heroes. Learn more about the event and the three Food Safety Heroes being honored.

About STOP Foodborne Illness

STOP Foodborne Illness is a national, nonprofit, public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens by advocating for sound public policies, building public awareness and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness. For more food safety tips please visit If you think you have been sickened from food, contact your local health professional.

For questions and personal assistance, please contact STOP Foodborne Illness’ Community Coordinator, Stanley Rutledge, at or 773-269-6555 x7.

Daddy MaoOver the last 20 plus years I have given close to 400 speeches around the world on “why it is a bad idea to poison your customers.”

My “chats” have been in front of industry and governmental groups on every continent (except South America) – I’m somewhat popular in China.

Most of the audiences are receptive to both my experience representing  many of the most seriously injured people in nearly every major foodborne illness outbreak that has occurred in the U.S. since the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak.  I think over time many that I have sued to fairly compensate my clients, have acquired a grudging respect that I do what I do not just for the money.

However, there have been moments.  I have had more than a few tense encounters with people who simply do not believe in the civil justice system.  I have had a few boo, not clap or simply walk out.  Most I have taken in somewhat good humor.

A week ago I was in Hawaii giving again my take on ways to avoid seeing me on the other side of a witness table.  Things went well and the group was engaged – even the fellow with the bright red baseball hat emblazoned with “Make America Great Again” seemed to tolerate me.

Then the question came: “Mr. Marler, how do you sleep at night?  You sued me over an outbreak that did not happen and it was not my product.”  At first I did not recognize the fellow, but as he spoke I recalled the outbreak.  I tried to explain how we take what we do seriously and use both the law and science to determine who is at fault and therefore who should take legal responsibility.  But, he was having none of it – he was convinced what I did was a “shake down.”

Yes, a “shake down” – here is the backstory:

At first glance, it appeared that the E. coli O157:H7 infections experienced by Natalia and Andrea D’Ercole were simply part of a small cluster of cases occurring in San Diego and Orange County, California.  As part of the routine case investigation, San Diego County public health investigators learned that on October 12, 2008 the D’Ercole siblings had eaten at The Cheesecake Factory restaurant located in Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego.  In neighboring Orange County, a 46-year-old man with an E. coli O157:H7 infection reported eating at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant located in Brea, California on October 13, 2008.  Genetic testing by pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) showed that Andrea, Natalia, and the Orange County patient were sickened with an indistinguishable strain of E. coli O157:H7, designated by PFGE pattern numbers EXHX01.4626/EXHA26.2558.  The strain was so unusual that it triggered a cluster investigation.  Federal officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) assigned Cluster Identification Number 08100NEXH-1mlc to the investigation.

Through OutbreakNet, a national outbreak response unit staffed at the CDC, a fourth case-patient in the cluster was identified, an 18 year old resident of South Dakota.  This patient confirmed the association between illness and eating at a Cheesecake Factory restaurant.  She had eaten at The Cheesecake Factory in Fashion Valley Mall on October 12, 2008 while on vacation in San Diego.  Natalia D’Ercole, the Orange County resident, and the South Dakota woman had symptom onset within five days of eating at the restaurant.  Andrea D’Ercole’s symptoms started several days after Natalia’s onset.  It is unclear whether Andrea’s infection was due directly to her meal at the Cheesecake Factory, or if her illness was secondarily caused via person-to-person contact with her ill sister.

Within a matter of days the outbreak grew beyond the Southern California confines.  Public health laboratories continued to report PFGE matches to the “Cheesecake Factory” strain of E. coli O157:H7.  Case-patients were identified in Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, and Ohio.  These individuals reported restaurant exposures but none ate at a Cheesecake Factory.  This led investigators to suspect a contaminated ingredient was in the marketplace.  Canadian investigators in Ontario identified an outbreak involving 55 persons with at least 13 ill case patients culturing positive for the outbreak strain. The majority of cases were linked to one of two restaurants.  Illnesses occurred between October 11 and October 28.  Canadian investigators conducted a case-control study and lettuce was statistically associated with illness.  Product traceback showed that two restaurants tied to the outbreak shared a common produce supplier and that Andy Boy brand romaine lettuce was the only lettuce in common to all Canadian restaurants with outbreak cases.

Its called the law and science.  Those that ignore both are bound to again see me on the other side of a witness table.  “Shake down” indeed.

recalled-cheese-Oasis-BrandAccording to the US Attorney’s Office, a Miami-Dade County resident was sentenced to 15 months in prison, by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr., for distributing contaminated cheese.  Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and Justin Green, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations (FDA-OCI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.

Christian Rivas, the owner of Oasis Brands, Inc. (“Oasis”), located in Miami, Florida, previously pled guilty to a two-count criminal Information.  Pursuant to Count 1, a felony, Rivas, with the intent to defraud and mislead, delivered cheese processed and packed at the Oasis facility into interstate commerce that was “adulterated . . . in that it contained lysteria monocytogenes (“listeria”) a deleterious substance, which may render the food injurious to health,” in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 331(a) and 333(a)(2).  Pursuant to Count 2, a misdemeanor, Rivas, as the responsible corporate official of Oasis, delivered cheese into interstate commerce, “which was prepared, packed and held [at the Oasis facility] under insanitary conditions whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health,” in violation of Title 21, United States Code, Section 331(a) and 333(a)(1).

recalled-Oasis-cheeseAccording to the court record, including the sentencing hearing and stipulated statement of facts in support of Rivas’ guilty plea, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services had alerted the FDA to the fact that cheese supplied by Oasis and located at a Virginia grocery store had been randomly sampled on July 26, 2014 and had tested positive for the presence of listeria.  A resulting FDA inspection of the Oasis processing facility revealed “numerous failures to comply with current Good Manufacturing Practice federal regulatory standards,” as well as several environmental swab samples taken from within the facility which tested positive for the presence of listeria.

At the close of the first inspection on August 22, 2014, Rivas agreed to do the following: (1) suspend manufacturing of new cheese products; (2) hire a consultant to inform the firm how to clean its facility; (3) stop distribution of finished food products in its inventory until a laboratory (retained by Oasis at its cost) could confirm that Oasis’ cheese products and its facility were negative for listeria; and (4) place all in-process product which was in the process of being manufactured or packaged and on the verge of distribution on hold until further discussions with FDA officials.

From October 7 through December 16, 2014, the FDA conducted a follow-up inspection at the Oasis facility and collected product samples of “Lacteos Santa Martha Cuajada en Hoja Fresh Curd,” then in storage at the facility, one of which later tested positive for listeria.

The court record indicates that subsequent to the first inspection and during the period September 24, 2014 through October 1, 2014, Rivas had, in violation of his agreement with the FDA, finished packaging multiple trays of cheese then held in-processing and had gone on to ship and distribute these items.  The cheese in question also consisted of numerous cases of individually packaged “Lacteos Santa Martha Cuajada en Hoja Fresh Curd.”  Rivas had initiated these shipments after he had learned from his testing laboratory, on September 24, 2014, that a sample of this same product had tested positive for the presence of listeria.

During the course of the sentencing hearing, the Court was informed that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had determined through DNA testing that an identified number of individuals were physically harmed as a consequence of having consumed contaminated cheese from Oasis during the summer and fall of 2014.

According to the CDC, the outbreak traced to the Oasis Brand cheese sickened people in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas. Three of the illnesses were related to pregnancy, with one newborn diagnosed with Listeria infection.

Rivas joins other food industry executives sentenced to federal prison on criminal counts related to outbreaks. Those cases include:

  • Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster sentenced in the Quality Egg case related to a 2010 Salmonella outbreak; and
  • Stewart Parnell and his brother Michael Parnell, along with Mary Wilkerson, sentenced in the Peanut Corporation of America case related to an E. coli outbreak.

Frozen-strawberriesMonterey County Health Officials have identified seven food service establishments in Monterey County at which the recalled product were served recently.  These locations include:

  • Black Bear Diner, 2450 Fremont Street, Monterey
  • Farm Fresh Deli and Café, 145 Main Street, Salinas
  • Fish Hopper Restaurant, 700 Cannery Row, Monterey
  • La Plaza Bakery, 107 Bardin Road, Salinas
  • La Plaza Bakery, 20A North Sanborn Road B, Salinas
  • Turn 12 Bar and Grill, 400 Tyler Street, Monterey
  • Yogurt Heaven, 157 The Crossroads, Carmel

If you consumed strawberries at Black Bear Diner (2450 Fremont St, Monterey), Farm Fresh Deli (145 Main Street, Salinas), Fish Hopper Restaurant (700 Cannery Row, Monterey), La Plaza Bakery (107 Bardin Road, Salinas), La Plaza Bakery (20A North Sanborn Road B, Salinas) or Turn 12 Bar and Grill (400 Tyler Street, Monterey) in the two weeks prior to November 3, 2016, OR if you consumed strawberries at Yogurt Heaven (157 The Crossroads, Carmel) in the two weeks prior to November 10th, Health Officials recommend that you:

Check your immunization record to see if you have been previously vaccinated for hepatitis A.If you have been vaccinated or have had hepatitis A disease in the past, no further action is recommended.

If you have not been immunized against hepatitis A or had hepatitis A disease in the past, contact your healthcare provider. The CDC recommends post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for unvaccinated people who ate the recalled strawberries in the last two weeks.  PEP consists of:Hepatitis A vaccine for people between the ages of 1 and 40 years.

Hepatitis A virus-specific immunoglobulin (IG) for people outside of this age range, but the hepatitis A vaccine can be substituted if IG is not available.

Those with evidence of previous vaccination do not require PEP.

PEP is not effective in people who ate the recalled strawberries more than 2 weeks ago.

Watch for signs and symptoms of hepatitis A infection for the next 6 weeks.

Contact your medical provider if you experience vomiting, abdominal pain, fever, nausea, dark urine, and/or yellowing of the skin or eyes.

If you ate the recalled product at one of the above locations in the time frame indicated and do not have a medical provider, please contact the following clinics offering hepatitis A vaccination:

  • Alisal Health Center, 559 East Alisal Street #201, Salinas, (831) 769-8800
  • Seaside Family Health Center, 1150 Fremont Street, Seaside, (831) 899-8100
  • Visiting Nurses Association and Hospice, (831) 372-6668
  • Hepatitis A vaccinations may also be available at your local pharmacy. Check with your insurance company about coverage.  Prices may vary by location and coverage.

Symptoms of hepatitis A can include vomiting, abdominal pain, yellowing of the skin and eyes, fever, fatigue, and nausea. Symptoms develop two to six weeks after consuming contaminated food or drink and can last from one week to several months. Most people recover completely, but sometimes hepatitis A can lead to hospitalization and severe illness. Hepatitis A can be passed from person-to-person when hands are not thoroughly washed after using the restroom.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and state and local Health Officials are investigating an outbreak of hepatitis A illnesses linked to frozen strawberries. Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicate frozen strawberries imported from Egypt are the likely source of this outbreak. The recalled product was distributed by the International Company for Agricultural Production & Processing (ICAPP) and imported from Egypt. On October 30, 2016, ICAPP recalled all of its frozen strawberries that were imported into the United States since January 1, 2016. The recalled products were distributed for sale to and use in food service establishments nationwide. As of October 17, 2016, 134 people with hepatitis A have been linked to the outbreak and reported from nine states: Arkansas (1), California (1), Maryland (12), New York (3), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Virginia (107), West Virginia (7), and Wisconsin (1).

raw-scallopsIn its weekly update Wednesday, the Hawaii Department of Health reported no new confirmed cases from Nov. 3 through 9. It recorded one new case the previous week, bringing the total number of sick people to 292. About a fourth of the outbreak victims have had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization. At least one death, a 68-year-old woman, is attributed to the outbreak that was traced to frozen scallops imported from the Philippines and served raw by the Genki Sushi fast food chain. Another outbreak victim died, but was terminally ill and in hospice care so health officials are not attributing that death to Hepatitis A. All but 18 of the victims have been residents of Oahu. Seven victims are visitors who have returned to the mainland or overseas. Eleven outbreak victims live on the islands of Hawaii, Kauai or Maui. Only Genki Sushi locations on Oahu and Kauai served the implicated scallops.

seaweedMore than two dozen people in Hawaii have been infected by Salmonella bacteria in an outbreak that is tentatively linked to seaweed (limu or ogo) from an unnamed farm on Oahu. The 14 infected people include children and adults, with four victims have such severe symptoms that they required hospitalization, according to the Hawaii Department of Health. Although encouraging public awareness, the state health department did not release the name of the Oahu farm. The department ordered the farm “to halt operations and advise its customers to remove product from sale immediately.” All of the infected people developed diarrheal illnesses from mid- to late October. Preliminary investigations identified consumption of raw fish, specifically poke that contained limu, as a common factor among the sick people.