I had a great time chatting with Shari Danielson of the blog, Simple Good and Tasty, for what is going to be a two-part expose into the inner workings of the mind of trial lawyer/wannabe politician/food safety advocate/blogger – “A Conversation with Bill Marler: Taking on E. coli, Big Ag, Raw Milk, Conspiracy Theorists, and the USDA.”

As part one shows, and as my wife and friends remind me too often, I am candid, at times, to a fault. Here are a few lines:

… He writes a daily blog about his work, and his entries are refreshingly un-lawyer-like. He is an entertainingly straightforward writer with a witty and wicked sense of humor….

… He can also be acerbic, confrontational, and sarcastic….

… I was not surprised to read that Marler is generally reviled by industrial food giants….

… At the same time, Marler is also hated by some sustainable, organic, local foodies for his lawsuits against family farms, most of which sold contaminated raw milk, and his support for federal food-safety legislation. To them, he is Goliath, towering menacingly over mom–and-pop farmers struggling to survive….

… Attorney Marler and I engaged in two extensively detailed phone conversations plus an e-mail exchange. The extent of his accessibility and openness surprised me; no one screened my calls; no one asked for my credentials. He was very direct, even blunt, as well as extremely articulate, wry, patient, and very, very likable. His favorite phrase seems to be “the reality is,” and after talking to him, I understand why he uses it so often. He struck me as being acutely motivated to find out what is real, or as close to real as the cold, hard, scientific data will allow. He’s a stickler for information and research. And when there are gaps in the data, he fills them with images of sickly children, mothers on kidney dialysis, and paraplegic ex-dance instructors….

Shari caught me at an unusual moment over the last few weeks/months/years – I was in my office – as opposed to being in some city somewhere either suing some corporation or talking food safety. Regarding food safety, specifically the balance between Big Ag and small farmers, as I have said too often: “In 17 years handling foodborne illness cases, I have never sued a farmers market, and, for the most part the “mom and pops” that I have sued have been raw milk dairies, that have poisoned and sickened their customers."  That is the reality.

What we need is a sustainable AND safe way of feeding an ever-expanding (numbers not waist line) population. I struggle with that idea a lot and write about it perhaps too often on my blog. However, it is more complex than Monsanto is evil and raw milk is good. We really need to figure out how to safely feed the world in a way that sustains our planet that also works in the reality of a global, capitalist economy.  The great thing is that there is a passionate discussion going on (only by bloggers?) about how our food is produced – what are the risks and benefits? I see my role (perhaps self-appointed) as challenging beliefs and making sure that the victims of the cost/benefit analysis are not forgotten.

I love the fact that she also caught me on my verbal tick “the reality is.” All in all, she hit my nail right on my head. Tune in tomorrow.

  • Dear Mr. Marler, I found your comments about raw milk cogent, amusing, and right on the money. As co-author of a book we call The Silver Cloud Diet, The Sustainable Diet for the 21st Century, the book that teaches you to eat the way your grandparents did, whole, organic, and natural, I love the way you think. Send me your e-dress and I’ll send you a copy to peruse.
    I went to the Chicago meeting of Weston A Price last month. I could immediately sense that it was something of a cult, although a lot of what they say, I (and probably you) would agree with. However, I was so happy to have hard data from you to confirm my gut reaction to the notion of raw milk. Nada. Too dangerous.
    As an author of 22 cookbooks, a trained nutritionist, I have long told people, the first rule in the food business, is don’t poison the customers.
    I have lectured coast to coast on the truth about big ag and salmonella, e-coli et al.
    However, one thing i TELL cooking students is this. Most of the pathogens are real wimps and can be killed by hygenic kitchen practices and safe cooking temps. These are common sense practices our grandparents understood but which are practically lost on the new generation of cooks and diners.
    Regarding hamburger? Only if you grind it yourself or shop with a reliable butcher who grinds meat from one animal at a time.
    i applaud you for the work you are doing and would love to interview you further for my blog. Please let me know if this is possible. call me 973 762 4857, or email me lindaeckhardt2008@gmail.com
    best regards
    Linda West Eckhardt
    James Beard award winning cookbook author
    co-author The Silver Cloud Diet
    ps I lived in Ashland, Or 20 yrs before moving to NY 12 yrs ago. My son, Jay, is an attorney who just returned to Portland to practice at Stoel Rives. I’m thinking of returning to the Pacific NW. Although I do have an organic garden here, I want chickens, and a cleaner lifestyle. Oregon is it for me.
    thanks. el