June 2005

In an article in Ontario Farmer, Jim Romahn wrote about my recent talk at University of Guelph about foodborne illness litigation:

U.S. lawyer Bill Marler of Seattle, Wash. Was cited as telling an audience at the University of Guelph recently that medicare has spared Canadian food companies from multi-million-dollar lawsuits when their products poison consumers.
Marler was further cited as saying that Canadian lawyers might file class-action lawsuits, but there won’t be much money for the victims.
There have, however, been Canadian food poisonings every bit as spectacular as the U.S. cases. The largest in Canadian history involved lunchmate products from Schneider Corp.; there is an ongoing lawsuit between Schneiders and cheese supplier Parmalat.
Marler talked about the lack of legal action in Canada in response to a question about the recent food poisonings of dozens of people who ate at a cafeteria at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton.

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Marler Clark has filed a second lawsuit against Gate Gourmet, the airline caterer responsible for an August, 2004 Shigella outbreak among passengers on outbound flights departing from Honolulu Airport. The complaint, which was filed Wednesday in United States District Court for the District of Hawaii (Case number CV05-00401 ACK LEK), was filed on behalf of seven more victims of the outbreak.
According to the Hawaii Department of Health, travelers aboard flights departing Honolulu for destinations in Japan, Australia, American Samoa, and twenty-two U.S. states became ill with a genetically indistinguishable strain of Shigella. The first complaint filed by Marler Clark was on behalf of a Florida resident, while the amended complaint includes plaintiffs from Michigan, Maryland, California, South Dakota, and Washington State. All plaintiffs were aboard one of three flights that departed Honolulu for the US mainland on August 22 or 23, 2004.

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According to a recent article written by the Associated Press, The Food and Drug Administration had promised in January 2004 to close loopholes in a ban on putting cattle remains in cattle feed. However, according to the article, the loopholes seem to remain:

  • Ground-up cattle remains can be fed to chicken, and chicken litter is fed back to cattle. Poultry feed that spills from cages mixes with chicken waste on the ground, then is swept up for use in cattle feed.
  • Cattle blood can be fed to cattle and often comes in the form of milk replacement for calves.
  • Restaurant leftovers, called “plate waste,” are allowed in cattle feed.
  • Factories are not required to use separate production lines and equipment for feed that contains cattle remains and feed that does not, creating the risk that cattle remains could accidentally go into cattle feed.
  • Besides being fed to poultry, cattle protein is allowed in feed for pigs and household pets, creating the possibility it could mistakenly be fed to cattle.
  • Unfiltered tallow, or fat, is allowed in cattle feed, yet it has protein impurities that could be a source of mad cow disease.

One would think tough enforcement is in order on the feeding of animal parts to other animals that are eventually consumed by humans. This should be a “no brainer.”

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The Associated Press did an interesting article on a Montana man named John Munsell who wants out of the meat processing business and is trying to sell the meat processing plant his father started decades ago. All of this comes after the ConAgra recall and the USDA’s claims that his plant’s food protection efforts are

Thursday, June 16, 2005
12:30 — 1:30 pm
OVC Learning Centre
Room 1715
University of Guelph
I will discuss why processors, ingredient suppliers, restaurant operators, and any operations involved in the growth, processing, and distribution of food products should understand the legal consequences and dangers of what may happen when foodborne illness strikes as a

Report a Food Illness
This project is being conducted by researchers and epidemiologists at the National Food Safety & Toxicology Center at Michigan State University. The Developmental Steering Committee had scientists from the Michigan Department of Community Health, Michigan Department of Agriculture, University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Mid-Michigan District Health Department, Barry-Eaton District

By William D. Marler
I always find it a bit odd these PR events that restaurants do after an outbreak that sickens hundreds and kills people – although this is the first time that I have seen a minister as the spokesperson. I have seen it dozens of times in prior outbreaks and I am always a bit amazed how the victims are often ignored. The reality of this outbreak is that Old South will likely have little insurance coverage or assets compared to the damages inflicted on its customers – see www.about-salmonella.com and www.about-reiters-syndrome.com. If this outbreak occurred against a large chain restaurant, the compensation to these people would be fairly in the 10’s of millions. How many of these people have no health insurance? How has being off work for days impacted their families? What about risks of long-term health problems? What about loosing a husband and father?

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As the Associated Press reported today, undercooked turkey at a Camden restaurant is most likely the cause of one of the worst food-borne illness outbreaks in South Carolina in recent years, the state health department said Friday.
More than 300 people were sickened and one 58-year-old man died after eating at the Old South Restaurant

Bankrupt Coronet Foods is now facing a lawsuit by 92 people from several states. On Wednesday a judge ruled the people who claim they got sick after eating tainted roma tomatoes could sue the store that sold them, and the company that supplied them, Wheeling based Coronet Foods.
“It’s clear that the tomatoes were supplied

As the Associated Press reported today, a West Virginia federal bankruptcy judge has allowed us to sue on behalf of more than 80 people who were sickened by salmonella-tainted tomatoes the company supplied the tomatoes and the Sheetz convenience store chain.
Federal Judge L. Edward Friend II signed an order yesterday allowing plaintiffs to sue