As some of the readers might know, in my spare time I am the managing partner at Marler Clark in Seattle.  Our long-time Epidemiologist, Patti Waller, has moved into semi-retirement and is running www.outbreakdatabase.com for us.  Katrina Deardorff, who has been with us for a nearly two years, has decided to take a job back in the public sector, and we wish her well.

So, I am working here on a Saturday (not that uncommon), thinking about how to replace the irreplaceable, but knowing how important this job is to the quality of work we do at Marler Clark.

Minimum requirements are a Masters in Public Health or Epidemiology and some experience in foodborne disease investigations and willingness to live in Seattle.

Please send your resume and salary requirements to me at bmarler@marlerclark.com.  Also, take a chance to see the below.  I think it helps understand the job and its importance.

SPEAKER: William Marler, Managing Partner, Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm
TIME: 4:30 – 5:30 pm
LOCATION: Wynne Courtroom and atrium, Inlow Hall, 530 W. New York Street, Indianapolis, IN
CONTACT: Hall Center for Law and Health at centerlh@iupui.edu

Please join the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Hall Center for Law and Health Grand Rounds on Thursday, September 13th at 4:30pm.

William Marler, Managing Partner, Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm

This is a free event, but registration is required.

Bio:

An accomplished attorney and national expert in food safety, William (Bill) Marler has become the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America and a major force in food policy in the U.S. and around the world.  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused life altering injury and even death.

He began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, in her landmark $15.6 million settlement with the company.  The 2011 book, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat, by best-selling author Jeff Benedict, chronicles the Jack in the Box outbreak and the rise of Bill Marler as a food safety attorney.

For the last 25 years, he has represented victims of nearly every large foodborne illness outbreak in the United States.  He has filed lawsuits against such companies as Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, Cargill, ConAgra, Dole, Excel, Golden Corral, KFC, McDonald’s, Odwalla, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Sizzler, Supervalu, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, securing over $600,000,000 for victims of E. coli, Salmonella, and other foodborne illnesses.

Among the most notable cases he has litigated, Bill counts those of nineteen-year-old dancer Stephanie Smith, who was sickened by an E. coli-contaminated hamburger that left her brain damaged and paralyzed, and Linda Rivera, a fifty-seven-year-old mother of six from Nevada, who was hospitalized for over 2 years after she was stricken with what her doctor described as “the most severe multi-organ [bowel, kidney, brain, lung, gall bladder, and pancreas] case of E. coli mediated HUS I have seen in my extensive experience.”

New York Times reporter Michael Moss won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Smith’s case, which was settled by Cargill in 2010 for an amount “to care for her throughout her life.” Linda’s story hit the front page of the Washington Post and became Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s touchstone for successfully moving forward the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010.

Bill Marler’s advocacy for a safer food supply includes petitioning the United States Department of Agriculture to better regulate pathogenic E. coli, working with nonprofit food safety and foodborne illness victims’ organizations, and helping spur the passage of the 2010-2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.  His work has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce.

At little or no cost to event organizers, Bill travels widely and frequently to speak to food industry groups, fair associations, and public health groups about the litigation of claims resulting from outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria and viruses and the issues surrounding it.  He gives frequent donations to industry groups for the promotion of improved food safety and has established numerous collegiate science scholarships across the nation.

He is a frequent writer on topics related to foodborne illness.  Bill’s articles include “Separating the Chaff from the Wheat: How to Determine the Strength of a Foodborne Illness Claim”, “Food Claims and Litigation”, “How to Keep Your Focus on Food Safety”, and “How to Document a Food Poisoning Case” (co-authored with David Babcock.)  He is the publisher of the online news site, Food Safety News and his award-winning blog, www.marlerblog.com is avidly read by the food safety and legal communities. He is frequent media guest on food safety issues and has been profiled in numerous publications.

In 2010 Bill was awarded the NSF Food Safety Leadership Award for Education and in 2008 earned the Outstanding Lawyer Award by the King County Bar Association.  He has also received the Public Justice Award from the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association.

Bill graduated from the Seattle University School of Law in 1987, and in 1998 was the Law School’s “Lawyer in Residence.”  In 2011 he was given Seattle University’s Professional Achievement Award.  He is a former board member of the Washington State Trial Lawyers, a member of the board of directors of Bainbridge Youth Services, former President of the Governor-appointed Board of Regents at Washington State University.

Parking:

Due to road construction on or near campus, we recommended parking at the IUPUI Sports Garage at 875 West New York Street.  Please note this is a change from previous years.

Parking is available for a nominal fee (credit/debit card) at the Sports Garage, as well as the Gateway Garage.

Special Accommodations:

Individuals with disabilities who need special assistance should call (317) 278-4789 no later than one week prior to the event. Special arrangements can be made to accommodate most needs.

On March 17, 2018, I penned the following: (Other than Tiger Brands admitting that its product tested positive for the exact same strain of Listeria that sickened now over 1,000 and killed 200), not much.  Lawrence, I’m still willing to write the check.

Imagine that the phone call comes or an email pops into your inbox – “Sir, we have been contacted by the health authorities and they say our product (polony) has been linked to illnesses and deaths. What do we do?”

So, what do you do?  Lawrence MacDougall received that call.  Now, what has he done and what will he do?

After being involved in every major (and a few minor) food poisoning outbreaks since the Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak of 1993, I have seen it all. I have seen good CEOs act badly and make their and their company’s problems worse and I have seen bad CEOs handle the outbreak with such aplomb that they become associated with both food safety and good PR.

So, what do you do?

Of course, it is always best to avoid the outbreak to begin with. When I have spoken to CEOs or their Boards–generally, pre-outbreak and pre-lawsuit–I always pitch them on “why it is a bad idea to poison your customers.” Putting safe food as the primary goal–yes, alas, even before profits–will (absent an error) give you a very, very good chance of never seeing me on the other side of a courtroom.

But, what if despite your best efforts, or what if you simply did not care, and an outbreak happens.

So, what do you do?

First, have a pre-existing relationship with the folks that regulate you. If someone holds your business in the palm of his or her hand, you should at least be on a first name basis. No, I am not suggesting that you can influence your way out of the outbreak but knowing who is telling you that your company has a problem allows you the ability to get and understand the facts. Do regulators and their investigators make mistakes? Perhaps, but not very often and not often enough to waste time arguing that your company did not poison customers.

Second, stop production of the implicated product and initiate a recall of all products at risk immediately. This procedure should have been practiced, and practiced, and practiced before. All possibly implicated suppliers should be alerted and all retailers should be offered assistance. Consumers need to be engaged too.  The goal now is to get poisoned product out of the marketplace and certainly out of the homes of consumers.

Third, launch your own investigation with two approaches, and at the same time. Are the regulators correct? And, what went wrong? Tell everyone to save all documents and electronic data. The goal here is to get things right. If it really is not your product, what has happened is bad, but survivable. If it really was your product, then learning what happened helps make sure it is likely to never happen again. More than anything, be transparent. Tell everyone what you find–good or bad.

According to the South African Minister of Public Health, Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi:

Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from stool collected from one of the ill children, and from both of the polony specimens collected from the crèche. These isolates were sent to the NICD Centre for Enteric Diseases and underwent whole genome sequencing and genomic analysis. The ST6 sequence type was confirmed on all three isolates on Saturday 27th January. Remember that in the last press conference I informed you that from clinical isolates obtained from patients (patient blood), 9 sequence types of Listeria monocytogenes were isolated and 91% were of sequence type 6 (ST6). We had then concluded that time that this outbreak is driven by ST6.

Following the lead from the tests performed on these children from Soweto and the food they had ingested, the EHPs (Environmental Health Practitioners), together with the NICD and DAFF representatives, accompanied by 3 technical advisors from the World Health Organization in Geneva, visited a food-production site in Polokwane and conducted an extensive food product and environmental sampling.

Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from over 30% of the environmental samples collected from this site, which happens to be the Enterprise factory in Polokwane.

To conclude the investigation, whole genome sequencing analysis was performed from this Enterprise factory and the results became available midnight or last night. The outbreak strain, ST6, was confirmed in at least 16 environmental samples collected from this Enterprise facility.

THE CONCLUSION FROM THIS IS THAT THE SOURCE OF THE PRESENT OUTBREAK CAN BE CONFIRMED TO BE THE ENTERPRISE FOOD-PRODUCTION FACILITY IN POLOKWANE

As of the March 14, 2018 update of Listeria monocytogenes Outbreak from the Centre for Enteric Diseases (CED) and Division of Public Health Surveillance and Response, Outbreak Response Unit (ORU), National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)/National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS), a total of 978 cases has been reported since 2017. Since the last situational update (8 March 2018), 11 additional cases have been reported to the NICD. The death total remained at 183. Given the above work by NICD and the fact that the number of ill is failing post-recall, Tiger Brands – Enterprise has nothing to argue about the source of the outbreak.

Fourth, assuming that the outbreak is in fact your fault, publicly admit it. If it is not your fault, then fight it. However, pretending that you are innocent when you are actually at fault will get you nowhere. Asking for forgiveness is not a bad thing when you have something to be forgiven for. Saying you are sorry is not wrong when you are in fact wrong.

Mr. MacDougall, given the facts saying this was both heartless and stupid: “There is no direct link with the deaths to our products that we are aware of at this point. Nothing.”

Fifth, do not blame your customers.  If your food has a pathogen it is not your customers responsibility to handle it like it will likely kill them or a member of their family.  Hoping that the consumer will fix your mistake takes your eye off of avoiding the mistake in the first place.

Sixth, reach out to your customers and consumers who have been harmed. Offering to pay legitimate losses will save money and your company’s reputation in the long run.  The public with give you credit and it will be a reduction from the future award during litigation.

Seventh, teach all what you have learned. Do not hide what you have learned. Make your knowledge freely available so we all limit the risk that something similar will happen again.

Mr. MacDougall, I will match you personally 1,000,000 Rand to donate to an Organization or University in South Africa to lead a review of both food processing standards and governmental regulations and oversight.  I will help find experts from around the world to assist.

Yes, you can do all of the above and still get sued. And, I might be the one to sue you, and in Mr. MacDougall’s case I am. Yet, companies who have followed the above find their passage through an outbreak, recall, and litigation temporary. The companies that struggle for unfounded reasons will seldom exist in the long run, or they will simply pay my clients more money.

Bill Marler is trial lawyer who spends a great deal of time trying to convince companies around the world why it is a bad idea to poison customers. Twitter @bmarler and Blog at www.marlerblog.com

The 2017 list, rechristened the Web 100, includes 50 blogs, 25 law podcasts and 25 tweeters for lawyers to follow. Perennial favorites are honored in the Blawg 100 Hall of Fame.

Some blogs listed over the years are still thriving after a decade or more, while others went dark long ago. Go beyond our annual lists to search thousands of blogs by specialty and location in the ABA Journal Blawg Directory.

What’s the Blawg Hall of Fame?

In 2012, we introduced our inaugural Blawg Hall of Fame class. These are blawgs that we’ve decided will always be among our favorites and so deserve their own listing that we add to each year. The list of best blogs has grown to 55, with five new additions for 2017.

How does the ABA Journal select digital media to include in the annual Web 100?

The Web 100 is compiled by ABA Journal staff and is largely a favorites list. We ask for nominations from our readers through the Web 100 Amici process. Most successful nominees are regularly updated, with original content, opinion and/or analysis. Blogs, podcasts and social media also are on our radar because they tip off the Journal staff to news, or the posts themselves are worthy of coverage.

Marler Blog

Bill Marler has consistently earned a place on our Blawg 100 list, and it’s not just because the tales of food poisoning outbreaks recounted on his blog keep us up at night. We feel he has truly proven how blogs can help lawyers with niche practices become sought-after experts.

Fast Facts of CDC: Surveillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks — United States, 2009–2015 Surveillance Summaries / July 27, 2018 / 67(10);1–11:

2009–2015: 5,760 outbreaks that resulted in 100,939 illnesses, 5,699 hospitalizations, and 145 deaths.

Among 2,953 outbreaks with a single confirmed etiology:

  1. Norovirus was the most common cause of outbreaks (1,130 outbreaks [38%]) and outbreak-associated illnesses (27,623 illnesses [41%]).
  2. Salmonella with 896 outbreaks (30%) and 23,662 illnesses (35%).
  3. Outbreaks caused by ListeriaSalmonella, and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) were responsible for 82% of all hospitalizations and 82% of deaths reported.

Among 1,281 outbreaks in which the food reported could be classified into a single food category:

  1. Fish were the most commonly implicated category (222 outbreaks [17%]).
  2. Dairy (136 [11%]).
  3. Chicken (123 [10%]).

The food categories responsible for the most outbreak-associated illnesses were:

  1. Chicken (3,114 illnesses [12%]).
  2. Pork (2,670 [10%]).
  3. Seeded vegetables (2,572 [10%]).

Multistate outbreaks comprised only 3% of all outbreaks reported but accounted for 11% of illnesses, 34% of hospitalizations, and 54% of deaths.

Problem/Condition: Known foodborne disease agents are estimated to cause approximately 9.4 million illnesses each year in the United States. Although only a small subset of illnesses are associated with recognized outbreaks, data from outbreak investigations provide insight into the foods and pathogens that cause illnesses and the settings and conditions in which they occur.

Description of System: The Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System (FDOSS) collects data on foodborne disease outbreaks, which are defined as the occurrence of two or more cases of a similar illness resulting from the ingestion of a common food. Since the early 1960s, foodborne outbreaks have been reported voluntarily to CDC by state, local, and territorial health departments using a standard form. Beginning in 2009, FDOSS reporting was made through the National Outbreak Reporting System, a web-based platform launched that year.

Results: During 2009–2015, FDOSS received reports of 5,760 outbreaks that resulted in 100,939 illnesses, 5,699 hospitalizations, and 145 deaths. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and CDC reported outbreaks. Among 2,953 outbreaks with a single confirmed etiology, norovirus was the most common cause of outbreaks (1,130 outbreaks [38%]) and outbreak-associated illnesses (27,623 illnesses [41%]), followed by Salmonella with 896 outbreaks (30%) and 23,662 illnesses (35%). Outbreaks caused by ListeriaSalmonella, and Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) were responsible for 82% of all hospitalizations and 82% of deaths reported. Among 1,281 outbreaks in which the food reported could be classified into a single food category, fish were the most commonly implicated category (222 outbreaks [17%]), followed by dairy (136 [11%]) and chicken (123 [10%]). The food categories responsible for the most outbreak-associated illnesses were chicken (3,114 illnesses [12%]), pork (2,670 [10%]), and seeded vegetables (2,572 [10%]). Multistate outbreaks comprised only 3% of all outbreaks reported but accounted for 11% of illnesses, 34% of hospitalizations, and 54% of deaths.

Location: A location of preparation was provided for 5,022 outbreak reports (87%), with 4,696 (94%) indicating a single location. Among outbreaks reporting a single location of preparation, restaurants were the most common location (2,880 outbreaks [61%]), followed by catering or banquet facilities (636 [14%]) and private homes (561 [12%]). Sit-down dining style restaurants (2,239 [48%]) were the most commonly reported type of restaurant. The locations of food preparation with the most outbreak-associated illnesses were restaurants (33,465 illnesses [43%]), catering or banquet facilities (18,141 [24%]), and institutions, such as schools (9,806 [13%]). The preparation location with the largest average number of illnesses per outbreak was institutions (46.5), whereas restaurants had the smallest (11.6).

Outbreaks: Outbreak investigators identified a food in 2,442 outbreaks (42%). These outbreaks resulted in 51,341 illnesses (51%). The food reported belonged to a single food category in 1,281 outbreaks (22%). The food category most commonly implicated was fish (222 outbreaks [17%]), followed by dairy (136 [11%]) and chicken (123 [10%]). The food categories responsible for the most outbreak-associated illnesses were chicken (3,114 illnesses [12%]), pork (2,670 [10%]), and seeded vegetables (2,572 [10%]). Scombroid toxin in fish was the single confirmed etiology and food category pair responsible for the most outbreaks (85), followed by ciguatoxin in fish (72) and Campylobacter in dairy (60). The pathogen-food category pairs that caused the most outbreak-associated illnesses were Salmonella in eggs (2,422 illnesses), Salmonella in seeded vegetables (2,203), and Salmonella in chicken (1,941). In comparison, scombroid toxin and ciguatoxin outbreaks from fish resulted in 519 outbreak-associated illnesses, an average of three illnesses per outbreak. Outbreaks of Salmonella infections from seeded vegetables resulted in an average of 88 illnesses per outbreak, and outbreaks of Salmonella infections from eggs resulted in an average of 78 illnesses per outbreak.

Food Implicated: Several novel food vehicles caused outbreaks during the study period. In 2011, an outbreak of Salmonella serotype Enteritidis infections linked to pine nuts imported from Turkey resulted in 53 illnesses and two hospitalizations. In 2014, an outbreak of Salmonella serotypes Gaminara, Hartford, and Oranienburg in chia seed powder imported from Canada caused 45 illnesses and seven hospitalizations. An outbreak of STEC serogroups O26 and O121 infections that began in 2015 was linked to raw wheat flour produced in the United States; it resulted in 56 illnesses and 16 hospitalizations in 24 states. An outbreak of Salmonella serotype Virchow infections attributable to moringa leaf powder imported from South Africa began in 2015 and caused 35 illnesses and six hospitalizations in 24 states. It was an ingredient of an organic powdered shake mix branded to be used as a meal replacement.

Multistate Outbreaks: Multistate outbreaks comprised only 3% of outbreaks but were responsible for 11% of illnesses, 34% of hospitalizations, and 54% of deaths. Multistate outbreaks involved a median of seven states with a range of two to 45 states in which exposure occurred. The largest of the 177 multistate outbreaks was caused by Salmonella serotype Enteritidis and due to contaminated shell eggs. An estimated 1,939 persons were infected in 10 states beginning in 2010. An outbreak of Salmonella serotype Poona infections attributed to cucumbers in 2015 had the second highest number of illnesses (907 illnesses in 40 states). This outbreak also had the most outbreak-associated hospitalizations (204 [22% of cases]). An outbreak of Salmonella serotype Heidelberg infections attributed to chicken during 2013–2014 had the second most hospitalizations (200 [32% of cases]) and involved persons from 29 states and Puerto Rico. An outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections attributed to cantaloupes in 28 states in 2011 had the most deaths (33 [22% of cases]), followed in 2014 by an outbreak in 12 states of Listeria monocytogenes infections attributed to caramel apples, another novel food vehicle (9), in which seven persons (20% of cases) died.

Daniel Dewey-Mattia, MPH; Karunya Manikonda, MPH; Aron J. Hall, DVM; Matthew E. Wise, PhD; Samuel J. Crowe, PhD.

  1. CDC Annual summaries of foodborne outbreaks. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/fdoss/annual-reports/index.html
  2. Scallan E, Hoekstra RM, Angulo FJ, et al. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—major pathogens. Emerg Infect Dis 2011;17:7–15. CrossRefPubMed
  3. National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). Foodborne disease outbreak 2011 case definition. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2013. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/nndss/conditions/foodborne-disease-outbreak/case-definition/2011
  4. PulseNet. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/pulsenet/index.html
  5. Guide to confirming an etiology in foodborne disease outbreak. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/outbreaks/investigating-outbreaks/confirming_diagnosis.html
  6. Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC) Food Categorization Scheme. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/ifsac/projects/food-categorization-scheme.html
  7. Richardson LC, Bazaco MC, Parker CC, et al. An updated scheme for categorizing foods implicated in foodborne disease outbreaks: a tri-agency collaboration. Foodborne Pathog Dis 2017;14:701–10. CrossRefPubMed
  8. US Census Bureau. Population and housing unit estimates. Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce, US Census Bureau; 2016. https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest.html
  9. Angelo KM, Conrad AR, Saupe A, et al. Multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenesinfections linked to whole apples used in commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples: United States, 2014–2015. Epidemiol Infect 2017;145:848–56. CrossRef PubMed
  10. Gould LH, Kline J, Monahan C, Vierk K. Outbreaks of disease associated with food imported into the United States, 1996–2014. Emerg Infect Dis 2017;23:525–8. CrossRefPubMed
  11. Gould LH, Walsh KA, Vieira AR, et al. . Surveillance for foodborne disease outbreaks—United States, 1998–2008. MMWR Surveill Summ 2013;62(No. SS-2):1–34. PubMed
  12. Hall AJ, Wikswo ME, Pringle K, Gould LH, Parashar UD. Vital signs: foodborne norovirus outbreaks—United States, 2009–2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2014;63:491–5. PubMed
  13. Food and Drug Administration. Food Code 2017. Silver Spring, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration; 2018. https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/ucm595139.htm
  14. Tauxe RV. Emerging foodborne diseases: an evolving public health challenge. Emerg Infect Dis 1997;3:425–34. CrossRefPubMed
  15. Food and Drug Administration. Egg safety final rule. Silver Spring, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration; 2017. http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/Eggs/ucm170615.htm
  16. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Silver Spring, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration; 2017. https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA
  17. Food Safety and Inspection Service. Salmonella action plan. Washington, DC: US Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service; 2015. https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/foodborne-illness-and-disease/salmonella/sap

As of July 13, 2018, 212 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella have been reported from 44 states.

  • Illnesses started from February 15, 2018 to June 21, 2018.
  • 34 ill people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.
  • 26% of ill people are children younger than 5 years.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings link these outbreaks to contact with live poultry, such as chicks and ducklings, which come from multiple hatcheries.

  • In interviews, 100 (72%) of 138 ill people with information available reported contact with chicks or ducklings in the week before their illness started.
  • People reported obtaining chicks and ducklings from several sources, including feed supply stores, websites, hatcheries, and from relatives.

WGS analysis to identify antibiotic resistance was performed for 118 isolates from ill people in this outbreak. Twenty-two isolates from ill people contained genes expected to cause resistance or decreased susceptibility to all or some of the following antibiotics: ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, gentamicin, ceftriaxone, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, cefoxitin, ciprofloxacin, and fosfomycin. Ninety-six isolates did not identify predicted resistance. Testing of 5 outbreak isolates using standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory confirmed these results. Some infections may be difficult to treat with commonly recommended antibiotics, and may require another kind of antibiotic.

Here is a good reminder:

This year’s FoodNet report summarizes 2017 preliminary surveillance data and describes trends since 2006 for infections caused by the following pathogens monitored by FoodNet: Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), Shigella, Vibrio, Yersinia. The report also summarizes cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) for 2016, the most recent year for which those data are available.

  • In 2017, FoodNet received reports of 24,484 illnesses, 5,677 hospitalizations, and 122 deaths in its surveillance area, which includes 15% of the U.S. population.
  • The incidence of infections per 100,000 people was highest for Campylobacter and Salmonella, which is similar to previous years.
  • The number of infections diagnosed by CIDT, a newer type of test, is increasing. The overall number of Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia infections diagnosed by CIDT increased 96% in 2017 compared with the 2014–2016 average.
  • CIDTs are revealing many infections – such as those caused by Cyclospora, Yersinia, Vibrio, and STEC non-O157 – that would not have been diagnosed before because of limited testing. CIDTs are fast and easy to use, and they detect some illnesses that would have otherwise been missed. However, CIDTs also challenge our ability to find outbreaks and monitor disease trends, because they do not provide certain information needed to characterize organisms that cause infections. For example, some information about the bacteria that cause infections, such as subtype and antimicrobial susceptibility, can be obtained only if a CIDT-positive specimen is cultured. FoodNet is gathering information to better understand the effect of CIDTs on surveillance.
  • The incidence of Salmonella infections overall did not change significantly, but there were significant changes among serotypes:
  • The incidence of infections caused by serotypes Typhimurium and Heidelberg has been decreasing since 2006–2008, with overall declines of more than 40% for both. Infections cause by serotypes Javiana, Thompson, and Infantis have all increased by more than 50% since 2006–2008.
  • Infections caused by STEC O157 have decreased in the past 10 years. The increasing use of CIDTs makes interpretation of trends in STEC infections difficult because CIDTs do not indicate which STEC serogroup caused the infection. The incidence of HUS among children younger than 5 years decreased during 2016 compared with 2006–2008. Because most cases of HUS are caused by STEC O157, the decline in HUS provides evidence that supports the finding of the decline in STEC O157 cases.

 

After 25 years doing food litigation, I am seldom surprised by the announcement of a foodborne illness outbreak.  It was no different last Friday when the Indiana Department of Health announced a multi-state Salmonella outbreak linked to cut fruit – mainly melons sold at large retailers in several states.  People in government or in various parts of the food industry know that an outbreak is brewing weeks before the evidence becomes too overwhelming to ignore, so on more than a few occasions, when the delay between government and industry knowledge and a public announcement becomes too slow for concerned people and I get a call, text of email.

But, it is not how the information gets out that concerns me – there will always be a difficult balance in foodborne epidemiology about when to go public.  If a contaminated food product is missed by proper production and testing, we will not know of the problem until people become ill.  And, the time between consumption, illness, investigation and recall can stretch for weeks or months depending on the numbers of people sick and the numbers of jurisdictions that encompass the outbreak.  Foodborne illness surveillance will always have challenges and continuing to make the process faster and more accurate must always be the goal.

However, what continues to both concern and perplex me is the FDA’s failure to be more transparent with the public once we know the cause of the outbreak.  In the early 2000’s the USDA/FSIS had a policy that would publicly announce who manufactured E. coli O157:H7 meat but refused to announce the location of where the product was sold – retailers or restaurants.  In 2002 the ConAgra beef E. coli O157:H7 outbreak and recall sickened dozens and killed one.  Most of the illnesses happened on or around the 4thof July.  However, a couple of illnesses happened later that Fall. When asked if those sickened had heard of the ConAgra outbreak and recall they said they had, but “we bought our meat at Safeway, not at ConAgra.”

It was not until 2008 that USDA/FSIS began to routinely disclose the retail distribution lists, so retailers and consumers would know where tainted product was shipped and potentially served.  According to a recent article in the Washington Post:

In the early 2000s, the Food Safety and Inspection Service — the branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that regulates meat, poultry and egg products — decided to revisit its own interpretation of the trade secrets rule. During a lengthy comments period, industry groups concerned with protecting their distribution lists from competitors faced off against consumer advocates. In 2008, after several years of debate, FSIS’s final rule concluded that it would “not cause substantial harm to the competitive position of any business” to disclose retailer names.

Not surprisingly retailers of USDA/FSIA regulated products have survived disclosure – transparency has been a benefit to consumer confidence.

Conversely, 80% of the food supply – that regulated by the FDA – has remained silent and opaque leaving retailers and consumers confused and at times angry at the lack of transparency.  According to the same Washington Post article:

In a statement to The Washington Post, the FDA affirmed that it believes its disclosure measures are sufficient and blamed the lack of downstream recall information on federal disclosure rules. Federal regulations do limit the sort of information that can be released to the public. Under the Freedom of Information Act and Title 21 of the Code of Regulations, government agencies — and specifically, the FDA — are told to exempt trade secrets and commercial information from any of their releases.

“Examples of [confidential consumer information] include raw material supplier lists, finished product customer lists, trace back information, etc.,” said Peter Cassell, a spokesman for the FDA. “CCI is exempt from Freedom of Information Act requests but can be shared through certain information sharing agreements (including with other Federal agencies).”

“The FDA publicizes recall notices, including pictures of affected products, and uses social media accounts to reach consumers as swiftly as possible,” he later added. “In some cases, the FDA can release certain information that is otherwise exempt from disclosure if it is necessary to effectuate a recall. In many cases, it is most efficient for the company to directly notify its distributors, so they can take appropriate action.”

Cassell declined to make an agency lawyer available for comment or explain how the FDA had arrived at its definitions….

Let me weigh in where the FDA would not.  Let me also be blunt – there is no reason (especially when faced with an outbreak of foodborne illness) – for the FDA to claim that the retail distribution list is a trade secret.  Transparency of the food chain for products overseen by USDA/FSIS has not lead to a collapse of trade secrets.  The FDA might well learn from a ten-year history of its sister food safety agency. Chicken Little, the sky did not fall.

An egregious example of FDA’s failure to not name retailers was 2017 E. coli outbreak linked to I.M. Healthy (great name for a product with a pathogen) soy nut butter that sickened dozens, some children seriously so. The outbreak began in December 2016 and reached critical mass in April 2017.  A recall was publicly announced, but no retailers were named.  I.M. Healthy went bankrupt and was likely uninterested or unavailable to assist in the recall.  Not surprisingly, product remained available to purchase in retail settings and online several months after the outbreak and recall were announced.

Seriously, someone at the FDA needs to explain why an arguable “trade secret” trumps public health?  The chain of distribution needed a good dose of transparency – both retailers and consumers were confused – not by too much information, but from too little.

Now back to last Friday when Indiana announced a multi-state Salmonella outbreak linked to cut fruit – mainly melons sold at large retailers in several states.  Here, the Indiana State Department of Health – not FDA, nor the manufacturer – announced the outbreak.  There was no recall yet, but Indiana did name several retailers, but not the manufacturer. The first news articles targeted retailers, not the manufacturer.  Several hours later the CDC and FDA announced a 60 – person Salmonella outbreak and named the manufacturer, but not the retail chain.  Then the manufacturer posted a press release naming the retailer chain.

Confused?  Me too.

So, my advice to the mystery FDA lawyer is simple – focus on public health and what should be disclosed and what is a trade secret will become clear.  Formulations, ingredients and how a product are made are trade secrets.  Who supplied the tainted raw material, who made the tainted product and where the tainted product was sold is not a trade secret – especially during and outbreak.  Simplicity, transparency and consistency allows for a visible supply chain and one that consumers can have confidence in.  Hiding behind “trade secrets” creates confusion and mistrust – not something that is helpful in the sale of food.

The non-profit group Stop Foodborne Illness has extended the application deadline for the Dave Theno Food Safety Fellowship until June 15.

The fellowship program is a partnership with the Michigan State University Online Food Safety Program. The fellow will live in Chicago and work with Stop Foodborne Illness while completing a 12-credit online Food Safety Certificate with Michigan State University. The fellowship includes housing, benefits, salary and tuition.

Eligible applicants include recent graduates (2016-2018) with a food science or animal science undergraduate degree from a U.S. Land Grant University. The non-profit organization said preference will be given to those seeking a career in the food industry or food regulation.

About Dave Theno
At age 66, food safety pioneer Dave Theno was hit and killed by a large wave while swimming with his grandson in Hawaii on June 19, 2017.

At the time of his death, Theno was CEO of Gray Dog Partners Inc., based in Del Mar, CA. He been CEO for the food safety consulting business since 2009.

Theno made history in food safety circles after he was hired as senior vice president and chief food safety officer for Jack-in-the-Box in 1993. The San Diego fast food chain was reeling from a massive and deadly outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. Four deaths and hundreds of illnesses were blamed on the burger chain.

At Jack in the Box, Theno implemented a comprehensive Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan. He was instrumental in requiring finished product test-and-hold protocols for hamburger. The safety measure initially irked those in the meat industry, but was later almost universally adopted.

Theno was also actively involved in numerous food industry and scientific organizations. In May 2017 he posthumously received the lifetime achievement award at the Food Safety Summit as part of the annual NSF Food Safety Innovation awards.

The Dave Theno fellow will:

  • Work in the Stop Foodborne Illness office 35 hours a week;
  • Complete two projects defined by the Stop and MSU Online Food Safety Directors;
  • Participate in weekly Safe Food Coalition calls; with possible travel to Washington, D.C.;
  • Assist the community coordinator in identified initiatives;
  • Help staff Stop’s booth at conferences, including the 2019 International; Association for Food Protection conference in Louisville, KY;
  • Attend “Creating a Food Safety Culture Executive Education” at MSU, May 21-24, 2019; and
  • Finish the MSU Food Safety Certificate coursework (12 credits).

A studio apartment, which is provided for the duration of the fellowship, is located in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. According to the organization it is wholly furnished, including full kitchen, basic cable and utilities. The Stop Foodborne Illness office is in the same building as the fellowship apartment.

In order to be considered for the fellowship, the application and supplemental materials must now be received by the organization no later than the extended deadline of June 15, 2018.

Applicants will need official transcripts from their degree granting university and three letters of recommendation (2 academic, 1 personal). Additionally, applicants will need a Statement of Intent outlining their background, professional interests, their reason for wanting this fellowship, and how they believe it will help their future career.

To review and begin the application process click here.

About STOP Foodborne Illness 
STOP Foodborne Illness is a national nonprofit public health organization dedicated to preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens by advocating for sound public policies, building public awareness and assisting those impacted by foodborne illness.

Former FDA Deputy Commissioner of Foods and current board member for STOP, Mike Taylor, said the organization helped create a culture of food safety that has been the driver of “everything that’s happened since [1993] … It’s absolutely clear that [STOP is the] catalyst, and that change of mindset has had a transformative effect on the food system in this country.”

By Food Safety Magazine Staff

Bill Marler is the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America, and a major force in food policy in the U.S. and around the world. Bill’s firm—Marler Clark: The Food Safety Law Firm—has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused life-altering injuries and even death.

Bill began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the historic Jack in the Box Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak, in her landmark $15.6 million settlement with the fast food company. For the last 25 years, Bill has represented victims of nearly every large foodborne illness outbreak in the U.S. He has filed lawsuits and class actions against Cargill, Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, Chipotle, ConAgra, Dole, Excel, Golden Corral, KFC, McDonald’s, Odwalla, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Sizzler, Supervalu, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s. Through his work, he has secured over $650 million for victims of E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and other foodborne illnesses.

Bill Marler’s advocacy for a safer food supply includes petitioning the U.S. Department of Agriculture to better regulate pathogenic E. coli, working with nonprofit food safety and foodborne illness victims’ organizations, and helping spur the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act. His work has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the British House of Lords.

Bill travels widely and frequently to speak to law schools, food industry groups, fair associations, and public health groups about the litigation of claims resulting from outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, and the issues surrounding it. He gives frequent donations to industry groups for the promotion of improved food safety and has established numerous collegiate science scholarships across the nation.

He is a frequent writer on topics related to foodborne illness. Among other accolades, Bill was awarded the NSF Food Safety Leadership Award for Education in 2010.

Link for Podcast:  https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/podcast/ep-25-bill-marler-25-years-food-safety/ 

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In this episode of Food Safety Matters, we speak to Bill Marler about: 

  • The circumstances under which he met the late Dave Theno
  • The Jack in the Box case and how it propelled his career
  • The current listeriosis outbreak in South Africa, and how it compares to the Jack in the Box case 25 years ago
  • Why foodborne illness cases involving hamburger and Escherichia coli are no longer a huge problem
  • How the Odwalla apple juice outbreak could have been avoided
  • Whether or not Salmonella should be officially declared an adulterant
  • The responsibility of food safety: consumer vs. food industry
  • His thoughts on the ongoing Peanut Corporation of America case and whether or not Stewart Parnell’s attempts at a new trial are valid
  • FSMA, and how the new regulations can be improved
  • Blockchain, whole-genome sequencing, and other technologies that are changing the food safety for the better
  • His newfound interest in public health as it relates to food safety

Related Content
Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat
20 Years of Marler Clark’s Top Foodborne Illness Cases

News Mentioned in This Episode
Deadly Listeria Strain Confirmed at South Africa Meat Plant
UPDATE: One Death Caused by Romaine Lettuce as E. coli Outbreak Spreads
New USDA Report Breaks Down Food Recalls 2004-2013; Trends in Food Recalls 2004-2013
UPDATE: Study: Fresh Produce Bacteria Can Thrive Despite Routine Chlorine Sanitizing; Official Study