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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

Food Poisoning Seems to Never Rest

Still in Atlanta at the National Environmental Health Association Conference on my way home (or not) in a few hours.  In between doing a mock deposition of a Health Inspector, I had time to talk to California, Minnesota and Oregon press about the state of Food Poisonings – specifically E. coli:

When food sickens, he heads for courthouse – With outbreaks of food poisoning becoming more and more common, lawyer Bill Marler is in high demand

By Matt McKinney, Star Tribune

No one really wants to meet Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer from Seattle, because those who do are likely A) critically sickened by contaminated food and in need of legal help, or B) responsible for selling the food.

Yet there seems to be no shortage of people who know Marler after several high-profile food illness outbreaks in recent years from spinach, tomatoes, frozen pizza, peanut butter, hamburger meat and, last week, Nestlé Tollhouse cookie dough. He has a national practice, but has had several cases in Minnesota recently, including several in which he’s sued Cargill on behalf of clients such as the 10-year-old girl from Mahtomedi who became seriously ill in December after eating hamburger contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

Marler rose to prominence during the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak of 1993. He maintains multiple food-related blogs while crisscrossing the country to speak about food safety. He’s supportive of federal legislation winding its way through Congress that would require more inspections of food plants and give more authority to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to order food recalls, among other things. Marler, who’s often quoted saying that he wishes food companies would put him out of business, also says that people must learn how to properly handle risky foods while companies must own up to the risks inherent in their products.

Marler’s reaction to the Nestlé Tollhouse cookie dough outbreak: "It’s almost un-American."

Ill girl’s Highlands Ranch family sues over dough

By Jennifer Brown, The Denver Post

The lawsuit is the first in Colorado related to the outbreak and follows one filed Monday in California by an 18-year-old woman. Both cases were filed by William Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in food-safety cases.

It’s unknown how this E. coli strain, one usually found in cattle manure, could have gotten into dough, but Marler speculated there could have been a contaminated ingredient, such as flour.

"That’s pretty remarkable that it found its way into cookie dough," the attorney said. "A lot of Americans tend to eat cookie dough raw. It’s pretty well-known, certainly in the industry, that people do consume cookie dough in that way."

Nestle ready to apologize to sickened Gresham teen

By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian

With the investigation under way, a Seattle attorney filed a second lawsuit against Nestle USA on Tuesday. The first, filed Monday, was on behalf of an 18-year-old California woman who was hospitalized for seven days after eating Nestle cookie dough, said attorney Bill Marler, who specialized in foodborne illness cases.

Tuesday’s suit, filed in Colorado, concerns a 6-year-old girl who was hospitalized twice after eating cookie dough. She developed a type of kidney failure associated with E. coli O157:H7 known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, which often brings lifelong complications such as dialysis.

Nestle’s labels carry warnings not to eat raw dough, but Marler brushed them off as insufficient to protect consumers.

"The warning issue is not very relevant, especially in light of the fact in that all the reported literature on what consumers do with cookie dough is that they eat it raw," Marler said. "The reality is that Nestle knew or should have known that their consumers were consuming that product raw and that they were handling it raw."

Another lawsuit filed in cookie dough E. coli scare

By Matt Tomsic, Danville Register & Bee

William Marler is one of the attorneys representing the child, Madison Sedbrook. He works for Marler Clark, a firm that represents victims of food poisoning.

According to Marler’s blog, Sedbrook, 6, ate the cookie dough several times in April. The Denver-area child developed flu-like symptoms and kept eating the cookie dough into May, when she developed ab-dominal cramps, fever and bloody diarrhea. Sedbrook was admitted to the hospital and released before being taken back.

She developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure that can be fatal. Doctors tested the genetic fingerprint of Sedbrook’s illness and compared it to the fingerprint of the nationwide outbreak of E. coli that may be linked to eating raw cookie dough. The two prints matched.