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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Marler as Don Quixote?

I just finished reading an editorial from Capital Press “Food safety comes from market.”  The opinion writer opined:

But Seattle attorney Bill Marler, a veteran litigator of damage suits over foodborne illness incidents, had some of the trappings of the Spanish dreamer and idealist Don Quixote as he traveled to Washington, D.C., to try and pry a food safety reform bill, HR 2749, out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. It’s reported that part of Marler’s Capitol Hill visit included passing out T-shirts that said, "Put a Trial Lawyer Out of Business: Pass Meaningful Food Safety Legislation Before Thanksgiving."

First, the opinion writer is completely wrong when he or she sated: “It’s [SB 501’s or HR 2749’s] main thrust is to group all food inspection responsibilities — growing, handling and processing — with the Food and Drug Administration, phasing out Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service.” Both the Senate version and the House version have nothing in either of them that do that. Both deal with FDA and FDA only. A single food safety agency has been shelved long ago, and is unlikely to rise from the dead.  Also, since I applied for head of USDA’s FSIS, why would I want to loose that job too?

I do, however, happen to agree with the opinion writer’s main premise that “food safety comes from [the free] market” when the writer “applaud[ed] Costco for putting added testing for E. coli O157:H7 into its contract with Tyson. That’s the marketplace at work, tightening up to keep a known cause of a sometimes fatal foodborne illness from reaching consumers.”

I could not agree with them more. However, those decisions, by Costco or others, are not made without a “Spanish dreamer” aiming a sharp lance and a charging horse directly at their pocketbook.