Politico covered my short talk at the Food Safety Summit:

Every step of the food chain — from manufacturers to auditors (Retailers too) — should be on its toes because who ultimately bears responsibility in foodborne illness outbreaks is a moving target, Bill Marler, a plaintiff’s attorney specializing in foodborne illness cases, warned yesterday.

Being responsible for an outbreak is already expensive for manufacturers targeted with injury-related lawsuits, but the legal landscape is changing to include more criminal prosecutions as well as increased liability for retailers and auditors, Marler told an audience of 150 food safety professionals at the Food Safety Summit, in Baltimore, Md.

The presentation resonated in the wake of the recent prosecution of Eric and Ryan Jensen, the owners of a Colorado cantaloupe farm tied to a massive Listeria outbreak in 2011. The two brothers, in January, were each sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $150,000 to a fund for victims of the outbreak.

“Remember it doesn’t require intent,” Marler warned the audience, explaining that, under federal law, misdemeanor charges can technically be sought even if a food company doesn’t make anyone sick. “The Jensens could have gone to jail…even if they had just shipped contaminated food into the marketplace.”

In other words, the crime was not injuring consumers, but simply unknowingly sending contaminated food into commerce.

Here is the PowerPoint.