May 22, 2013
Dr. Eric Wilke
Brazos County Health Department
201 North Texas Avenue
Bryan, TX 77803
Re: Coco Loco E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak
Dear Dr. Wilke:
Since the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993, I have spoken before Public Health Departments and Environmental Health Departments all across the United States (some 30 states) as well as in Canada, England, France, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand and China. In a few months I will be off to South Africa and then England, Dubai and China again. In between, I will be in several states speaking to the food industry about why it is a bad idea to poison customers with unsafe food. Many of my presentations will focus on how important both public and environmental health are, and how much the public needs to support our governmental officials.
It was therefore admittedly with a great degree of shock and sadness that I watched KHOU 11’s Drew Karedes’ report on the press conference where you announced the source of a 10-person E. coli outbreak among your county’s residents—two of them young children who developed life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome. Your stunt stuffing a Coco Loco taco in your mouth was beyond anything I have ever seen a public official do in a post-outbreak situation. Your insensitivity toward the people who were ill was stunning. You should personally apologize to each and every person who contracted E. coli from Coco Loco. Honestly, if I was your boss, I would fire you.
Whether the County fires you or not, please take the time to read the enclosed book “Poisoned.” It is the story of what happened during the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Even if you only read the first chapter, I would hope it would help you have a greater understanding of what your job really is: protecting public health, not business’ bottom lines.
William D. Marler