This week I spent three days in mediation on E. coli O157:H7 cases (and a fair amount of time talking too much about Listeria and cantaloupe).  Last week were speeches in Denver and Phoenix to people in the restaurant and hospitality industies about how to avoid foodborne illness claims.  The week before that it was Salmonella claims in Minnesota.  Next week, well, I’ll be in Canada and Virginia.

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I think it may still be Food Safety Month?  

ABC’s News’ Neal Karlinsky and I had lunch today for his story tonight “Food-Borne Illness Attorney: Top Foods to Avoid.”  This says it all:

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that 13 deaths and 72 illnesses have been connected to the listeria-tainted cantaloupes. Marler, who has worked on dozens of major food-borne illness cases, called this outbreak “stunning.”

“People die, we all will, but you shouldn’t die from eating cantaloupe,” he said. “You shouldn’t die from eating food. You shouldn’t die from having a meal with a friend. It just shouldn’t be that way.”

  • Gabrielle Meunier

    Can’t wait to watch it on Nightline tonight — one of my favorite shows. Keep up the good work, Bill!

  • John Munsell

    Bill, you are right when you say we shouldn’t die from eating food. While consumers must become proactive in the proper handling and cooking of food, the always present danger of cross-contamination pervades all kitchen activities. While consumers can see and remove visible contaminants (dirt, hair, etc), we simply cannot see invisible bugs such as Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella. One question is how do we confront these invisible pathogens?
    The meat industry (as well as USDA & FDA) acknowledges that E.coli & Salmonella originate from within animals’ intestines, and by extension, proliferate on manure-covered hides. In response, the industry has implemented multiple-hurdle pathogen intervention steps on the kill floor to remove the deadly bugs. The livestock industry and pharmaceutical companies are likewise working on vaccines intended to greatly reduce the incidence of E.coli & Salmonella in the intestinal tracts of live animals. All laudable steps. What kind of interventions are being developed by the food industry to challenge listeria? What can a cantelope grower do to reduce the incidence of listeria? The answer to this question will inevitably force us to identify the true source(s) of listeria. If rinsing cantelope results in cross-contamination of all cantelope in the rinse, discontinuing the rinse only prolongs the agony, because we will eventually need to identify the true SOURCE of listeria. If we can identify and attack the true source, greatly decreasing its incidence, the subsequent rinsing of cantelope will become safe again.
    Only when the food industry identifies the true Source of pathogens, and forces the source to implement meaningful corrective actions, will the industry successfully respond to Bill Marler’s challenge to “Put me out of business”.
    John Munsell