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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

SEPARATING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF – The reality of proving a foodborne illness case

Screen shot 2011-06-01 at 11.42.57 AM.pngI have been litigating foodborne illness cases for nearly two decades. The key to my success has been to find a quick, reliable method of distinguishing between legitimate food poisoning claims and suspect ones. In my experience, the food industry, from farmer to retailer to restaurant, tends to over-emphasize the specious claim and under-value the legitimate claim. It is an unfortunate situation that increases the likelihood of the industry missing important measures to improve food safety.

By failing to improve food safety, the industry runs the risk of actually poisoning consumers and attracting expensive litigation that often results in public relations nightmares. My goal has been to bring forth only legitimate claims that have caused substantial personal damages and force the food industry to think about the real costs of food safety.

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  • dangermaus

    Food poisoning is such a pervasive thing, though… Many people have read the FDA claim that 76,000,000 cases of food-borne illness occur per year (or some number they’ve since revised). Any guess at how many of those 76M are genuinely traceable to negligent food handling?

  • http://www.marlerclark.com/wmarler.htm Bill Marler

    New Numbers:
    CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.
    http://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/2011-foodborne-estimates.html
    All of them – from farm to fork.

  • dangermaus

    You’re not saying that all of them are traceable to negligent handling, are you? Even when over 80% of the cases in that report are from “unspecified agents”? Isn’t that setting an unrealistic standard for what constitutes “negligence”?

  • Ergonomic Chair

    Food poisoning can threaten the lives of people and it can easily affect a large population at a single time. Although, it can really be a reason for alarm, it should also be emphasized that if enough attention is given on proper food handling, the problem can be prevented easily.

  • justnotsurprised

    I see cases of food poisoning in industrialized countries that allow meat and eggs to be sold that might be unsafe, E.coli, salmonella and such are warned about but not tested for before sale. All the consumer gets is instructions to thoroughly cook all meat, wash hands and counters off with soap and water.
    But no cases reported from places that are not industrialized, sell and eat food in uninspected places and in general very primitive ways.
    Why is this?
    Are we so secure in our food safety methods that even with a constant shortage of inspectors and inspections we don’t bother to worry about bad things happening until they do?
    Or is this part of the plan, with sickness part of the profit margin?
    Why do we allow filthy farms and factories to sell without problems and attack and restrain small clean, tested farms and products? Raw dairy farms test constantly for diseases and never have problems yet are under scrutiny daily.
    Hypocrites, and thieves operate like this!
    The poorer countries should all be disease filled and have dying populations. But they don’t. WE DO!

  • http://www.jimrehs.net Jim Schmidt

    justnotsurprised, I don’t know where your getting your information from but poorer countries for the most part have higher mortality rates which is usually accompanied by a high birth rate, this why you don’t see a dying population. Japan is a population that is aging and shrinking as the birthrate is below replacement level.
    Raw dairy farms have been found to be filthy and some clean. Just like any business/industry you have good ones and bad ones. The one thing that all raw dairies have in common is they sell a product that has no additional nutritional benefits but is significantly more dangerous than pasteurized milk. The worst part is most of those affected are children who can’t chose not to drink raw milk.
    I’m sorry that you seem to think there is some grand plan for profit. I wish I didn’t have to do foodborne illness investigations, it would save the taxpayers of the County I work at money. I’m sorry you think only the Feds are looking out for the public and environmental health of our citizens.

  • Pat

    I won’t go into great detail here, but I am just starting to feel human again after a bout with salmonella, which included a visit to 2 doctors and the emergency room. I can be almost positivie it was caused by a meal I had that included very runny eggs. I ordered the same meal again today, just to see if the eggs were cooked (they must not be runny in NJ, or the restaurant can get a fine), and sure enough, even the egg whites were runny. I intend to bring that meal to our local health department, which is already investigating the cause of my illness. In addition to the usual symptoms, I have been and am now suffering from what I thought was a “twisted” knee, but now wonder if it isn’t reactive arthritis? Is there really any chance of my proving a case against the restaurant, since it’s a small restaurant in a small town, and is it something even worth pursuing? I’m not “suit” crazy, but have some major concerns about the reactive arthritis being a lifetime affliction…