courtroom.jpgPerhaps it was being at the memorial service (with 500 others) of a friend’s mom today that made me reflect on my own 53 years to date.

Or, perhaps it was being “un-linked” on Linkedin a week ago by a federal regulatory official who felt that linking with me “might send the wrong message” – to whom, I am not quite sure.

Or, perhaps in was the angst in the voice of a player in the beef industry today who wanted to invite me to speak at an industry convention to the same companies that I have made much of my living off of.

Or, perhaps it was being asked by the American Bar Association to speak on food safety at a food safety conference only to be disinvited when the sponsor complained that I had sued one of its divisions – 14 years ago.

In nearly two decades of suing, for the most part, multi-million dollar companies, that for the most part, poison little kids, I have made few friends. True, many of the companies that I have sued, and at times bankrupted, honestly evoke little sympathy (at least by me). However, my strong suspicion is that those CEO’s that took shortcuts in food safety are still invited to attend conventions, and may well have many more mourners at their memorials.

Even erstwhile “friends” in consumer advocacy, academia or public health are happy to solicit and take money from me, so long as they can mask my involvement – “for appearances, you understand.”

Someone with a smaller ego might well feel wounded.

Someone without a sense of purpose might become sidetracked.

Fortunately, my ego is only slightly less secure than expansive sense of knowing why I do what I do. So, go ahead, “unlink” me, invite me or not, take the donation and use it well and pretend that the money fell from the sky. It really is OK.

It is OK, because I love what I do. I am honored to help those who have been stricken by the food that they thought was safe. I am happy to help try and give them something of theirs or their child’s life back, and to give them some level of peace that the future will be better. That is my primary mission.

I am also proud of the time I have spent in 20 years traveling the world explaining to industries I sue, “why it is a bad idea to poison your customers,” or to do things right and “put me out of business, please.”

It is sometimes lonely being a Lawyer.

  • Jennifer T

    From a foodie that has had food poisoning several times, mostly from sprouts, I appreciate you. I also follow you on twitter.
    I look forward to seeing your positive strides towards healthier, cleaner food.
    Thank you for caring!

  • Larry Andrew

    I wonder if you may be underestimating the support and friendships you have developed as a result of the same activities you cite that have caused you to be, perhaps, unwelcome or unpopular in some venues. My take is that there are literally thousands of people that you have touched over the years that highly value you and your efforts to make the world a better and safer place.

    As two of those people, Karen and I can only assure you that we will always appreciate all that you have done on our behalf.

  • I have acted as an expert witness in a few food related lawsuits. My friends and colleagues are adamant that I should not reveal this to “the powers that be” in the industry. So, I do not. This is curious in a way because if I were asked to testify on behalf of an industry defendant whom, in my expert opinion, was not at fault, I would do so in a heartbeat.
    Without advocates such as yourself, there would be no relief for the thousands of victims who suffer through food related illnesses. Sometimes the just fight is the lonely fight.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Carl Custer

    Awww heck, we love you Bill. You have many admirers.
    As a former federale who pushed science over politics, at various times I was called a: “Loose cannon”, “friend of industry”, and “consumer nut”. Thus, I understand the rejection.
    But you’re only rejected by the pongoloid-minded insecure folks who believe they have God on their side (& thus can do no wrong . . . until caught).
    Keep up the good work.

  • Professor Donna M. Byrne

    Hey, Bill. I’m proud to know you. I went to a funeral yesterday too, of a guy in his mid-50s whose daughter was a childhood friend of my own. It makes you think about everything you do and why you do it.
    Thanks for adding some words to my lexicon — “unlinked”, “disinvited” (to go along with “unfriended”). These are signs of our times, as are, unfortunately, the events that make your work so important.

  • Jenny Staub

    Keep doing what you have been, and feel confident in the knowledge that you are truly helping people. Your knowledge, tenacity, and genuine caring attitude has gotten many a family through trying times. You are greatly appreciated!

  • Just adding my bit to encourage our lonely lawyer…….you are greatly appreciated and admired. You can’t be too lonely when you have many that stand with you. If you ever get too lonely, give me a call and I’ll buy you a a piece of pie.
    The sad part of some people is that their HACCP plan is Have A Cuppa Coffee & Pray!
    Be Bold , Be Strong!

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    At least it is about what you do and not who you are. Its business and not personal. People may snicker about lawyers until they need one!

  • Vincent D

    I work in a meat department where I’ve made food safety my highest priority to practice. This belief isn’t shared by everyone in my department and the quality and the discipline of producing meat safe to the public varies. Sometimes when I feel alone in my own department, I’m reminded by you and other food safety advocates that we’re a unit binded by beliefs and respect for the people we serve. So at those lonely times behind the cold meat counter, I’ll continue to educate myself, develop better ways to inform others of food safe practices and help progress meat in to positive food source for every dinner table.

    Consciously, we never stand alone.

  • I don’t observe birthdays or such and I’m well past the point of throwing wild soirees so I can’t think of a thing to invite you to. But if you want to drop by some afternoon I could be convinced to fire up a pot of coffee and kick back for a while.
    If it will make you feel any better, I wasn’t invited either. The difference is that I consider such non-invitations as evidence that I am living right.

  • LPMB

    “those CEO’s that took shortcuts in food safety are still invited to attend conventions”

    Unfortunately (or fortunately – who actually likes those things!), your reward will have to be a job well done on behalf of your clients and others.

    “and may well have many more mourners at their memorials”

    While possibly true, it doesn’t mean you haven’t made a difference.

    You and your staff are invaluable to us. Without you, we’d be left to battle alone – in an arena where many profit, but few care.

    Thank you for caring. You’ve made a difference to us.