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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

It has been a busy week in the Food Safety News World

Newsaaa.jpgIt started out with my comments in the article – “El Dorado County farmers challenge food regulations” on the desire by some to forgo food safety oversight simply because the food is local. I had a different take:

Local food isn’t necessarily healthy food, said Bill Marler, a Seattle food safety attorney.

“What these kind of ordinances are trying to do is ‘let me do whatever I want to do because I believe (that) because my product is local it’s safe,’ ” Marler said. “And that’s baloney.”

Marler is a sponsor of www.rawmilkfacts.com, a website Lyle cited in support of state rules.

People are unaware of the dangers of uninspected foods because they don’t see the consequences, Marler said.

“I’ve been in a lot of ICUs, I’ve been at funerals, I’ve seen children die because of what’s in the food,” he said.

“Regulation is not a bad thing,” Marler added.

In a bit more positive vein is the article that just came out in USA Today – “Only 1 deadly strain of E. coli is illegal, but that may change.”

There’s no requirement that companies test for the other lethal strains, and it’s not illegal for them to be in the food.

And that, says a growing chorus of lawmakers, food-safety and consumer advocates, needs to change. But attempts by these legislators and interest groups to broaden the types of E. coli strains that are specifically subject to federal regulation so far haven’t succeeded.

“We cannot afford to wait for a tragic outbreak before taking action,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said earlier this month in a letter to the Secretary of Agriculture.

In the absence of specific federal oversight, however, some companies have begun their own testing for these pathogens to protect consumers and their own bottom lines.

First out of the chute was Costco, which began testing its ground beef two months ago. Beef Products Inc., the nation’s largest supplier of lean beef, began testing on July 18.

There’s also movement in the produce and leafy greens world, where multiple producers and retailers have been testing for E. coli O157:H7 since the spinach outbreak that almost wiped out the leafy green vegetable market in 2006.

In the past few months, newly available tests have made it possible to check for a broader number of the microbes and they now include the harmful group of E. coli strains beyond O157:H7 known as the Big Six.

Petitions to label these other forms of E. coli as adulterants came from petitions filed in 2009 by Seattle food-safety lawyer Bill Marler and in February of 2010 by the STOP Foodborne Illness group. 

And, the reason why food safety is so important was well stated in – ’30 days of hell’ for US victim of German E. coli”

Meyer is one of six U.S. cases linked to the German outbreak and he’s the first to talk about his terrible experience, speaking to The Associated Press by phone from his home in Franklin, Mass.

“It was 30 days of hell,” said his wife, Loreen.

Meyer and his wife contacted a local attorney, saying they were worried about possible problems with getting health insurance to pay his hospital bills. That turned out not to be an issue. But the attorney referred the couple to Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer considered the nation’s pre-eminent plaintiff’s attorney in food poisoning cases.

Marler is looking into the possibility of a lawsuit, with potential targets including the company that owns the Hamburg hotel where Meyer stayed.

He called Meyer’s suffering “horrific,” and echoed Meyer’s wife in worrying that he may suffer long-term problems.

For his part, Meyer feels lucky to have survived, crediting his doctors for saving his life and his good health and fitness before the illness for helping him get through it.

“Many unfortunate people didn’t survive,” he said. “It really is a frightening thing.”

It is has been a busy week.

  • Everyone at some time has had a bad experience with something in life, be it police, government regulation, car repairs, etc. You can either let that experience skew your view and make every other experience that much more difficult or you can move on.

    Almost all the people I regulate see me as two things, yes a regulator that can disrupt things for them, but the main thing they see me for is an objective person that is knowledgeable and a valuable resource. They are happy to get input on how to do things in a safer way and sometimes even in a more productive way and cost effective way. They are also don’t want to get their customers sick and although my inspections are no guarantee of stopping it they are a valuable tool to the owners and they appreciate the opportunity to try and decrease their risks.

    And I’ll be honest with you, you really need to work at doing so bad that your facility gets closed for violations.