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Marler Blog Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation

The Civil Justice System and the Media in Action

At times both lawyers and the media take some heat from politicians – mostly from the right – for standing up for their rights. I am proud when one of my clients is willing to take the abuse.

Erin M. Carrera maintained her 16-year-old became ill after eating two zeppole’s made at the bakery last month.

“I was just infuriated, absolutely infuriated. As a chef, I’m infuriated by the lack of food handling and food safety that was practiced there, and as a mother infuriated that my son should have to go through an illness for simply enjoying a couple of zeppoles,” said Carrera. …

“I feel that it was just such gross negligence that it should be punished,” said Carrera.

Mom sues RI bakery after son falls ill: wpri.com

Court Document: Salmonella Lawsuit

As some readers know, I have spent the past few years traveling to China on food safety.  If Ms. Carrera lived in China, she and the reporter would likely be in jail.  Think about it.

  • Thankfully, we have a functioning tort system in the US. It stands in the gap for the decrepit and often ineffective regulation of facilities by our disconnected health authorities. While this operation had a legal obligation to control the risk of Salmonella in its foods, an obvious defect like using egg containers for storage of pastry shells should have been caught. We may learn of other factors that led to this massive outbreak.
    As a public health consultant and food safety auditor, I make frequent audits of bakeries and develop HACCP systems for them. I am often shocked at the lax attitude that the authorities have in bakeries-they are obviously viewed as a low priority. Most bakers when properly educated and given the tools can and will gladly do their jobs safely, but when they do not, there are plenty of hazards that reach the public. I am often telling bakers for the first time about the risks of Salmonella from eggs, and time and temperature abuse, and inadequate cooking.
    As a public health professional that spent 20 + years fighting the “system” to try to improve conditions for consumers, I say it’s high time we make both industry and our government agencies responsible for the damage that lax agency enforcement and industry ignorance causes-like in China. Although I am not in favor at this time of the firing squad, I am advocating proper funding, education, and empowerment of our inspectors so can they protect us better.
    Agencies and the food industry, including the forgotten bakery segment, should be all about prevention in the interest of public health. Unfortunately, there is a mean-spirited group of legislators who are more than willing to take apart our public health agencies- to “make it easier for the industry”. These are the same ones who say we should limit damages against businesses that cause injury to the consumer, when in fact, civil lawsuits are about the only means for justice the people have.
    Right now, plaintiff lawyers stand in the gap for the consumer and we are glad they do. These injured people deserve their day in court. But most importantly, we need to stop these totally preventable, stupid and tragic events, and we frequently fail to do it.
    Thanks Mrs. Carrera for standing up for your rights, by doing this you help to move the pieces forward for all of us concerned about the safety of our food supply. Hopefully, things will change as a result. I hope your son is feeling better, and gets back to normal quickly. In the mean time-Bravo to a brave mom!