bjcolorNews from Benin makes the rough and tumble of my world look a bit better today after this tragic event.

The police in Benin have confirmed the death of three persons who were allegedly shot dead by a middle-aged man identified as Onana Osua.

Osua who was said to have shot six persons over alleged food poison, was finally gunned down after he allegedly attacked a police patrol team.

The incident occurred at Uromi, Esan North East local government area of the state.‎

The late Osua who was admitted at an undisclosed hospital for food poisoning, reportedly left the hospital bed, went home, took his gun and went to the homes of people he suspected to be responsible for poisoning him and shot them dead.

Having the ability to take a grievance, such as food poisoning, to a neutral place – like a courtroom – certainly is a bit more civil than the alternative.

On Friday, December 5, more than 100 people gathered at Nackawic Community Hall for a turkey dinner sponsored by a local church.   In the hours following the traditional meal of turkey, vegetables, gravy and pies, dozens of those attendants fell ill. About 30 people reported signs of gastrointestinal illness, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

On Monday morning, 87-year-old Bessie Scott died. Early autopsy reports suggest a gastrointestinal illness could be to blame, although the health department is still investigating.

Public health officials have taken samples of the dinner’s leftovers and are trying to determine the exact cause of the infections.

“All the types of food that were served, how those foods were prepared, the sources of each of those foods, where they came from in terms of grocery stores versus home-made versus…all of those elements are being looked at,” Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s acting Chief Medical Officer of Health, told CTVNews.

Rancho Feeding Corporation of Petaluma, California is recalling approximately 8,742,700 pounds of beef because it processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection. Thus, the products are adulterated, because they are unsound, unwholesome or otherwise are unfit for human food and must be removed from commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The following Rancho Feeding Corporation products are subject to recall:

• “Beef Carcasses” (wholesale and custom sales only)

• 2 per box “Beef (Market) Heads” (retail only)

• 4-gallons per box “Beef Blood” (wholesale only)

• 20-lb. boxes of “Beef Oxtail”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Cheeks”

• 30-lb. boxes of ” Beef Lips”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Omasum”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Tripas”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Mountain Oysters”

• 30-lb. boxes of “Sweet Breads”

• 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Liver”

• 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Tripe”

• 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Tongue”

• 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Veal Cuts”

• 40-lb. boxes of “Veal Bones”

• 50-lb. boxes of “Beef Feet”

• 50-lb. boxes of “Beef Hearts”

• 60-lb. boxes of “Veal Trim”

Beef carcasses and boxes bear the establishment number “EST. 527″ inside the USDA mark of inspection. Each box bears the case code number ending in “3” or “4.” The products were produced Jan. 1, 2013 through Jan. 7, 2014 and shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas.

On January 13, 2014, Rancho Feeding Corporation recalled 41,683 pounds of meat products. On January 16 that recall was expanded to include an additional 420 pounds of product that was produced without the benefit of full federal inspection, making it unfit for human food.  The following Rancho Feeding Corporation products were subject to the recalls:

30-lb. boxes of “Book Tripe”

50-lb. boxes of “Beef Feet”

20-lb. boxes of “Beef Oxtail”

50-lb. boxes of “Beef Hearts”

60 and 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Liver”

30-lb. boxes of “Beef Cheeks”

60-lb. boxes of “Beef Tripe”

30-lb. boxes of “Beef Tongue”

All products bear the establishment number “EST. 527″ inside the USDA mark of inspection. Each box bears the case code number “ON9O4.” The products were produced Jan. 8, 2014, and shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments in California.

The FDA and state and local officials investigated a case of tetrodotoxin poisoning in Fairfax County, Virginia which is believed to be linked to the consumption of imported puffer fish that was not processed and prepared by specially trained and certified fish cutters as part of an agreement between the U.S. and Japan.  The liver, gonads (ovaries and testes), intestines, and skin of some puffer fish contain the toxins tetrodotoxin and/or saxitoxin.

According to Fairfax County Health Department authorities, the individual who developed tetrodotoxin poisoning received the puffer fish in a package from relatives in South Korea, rather than purchasing it from a restaurant or other retail outlet in the United States.

Consumers should only eat puffer fish (also known as fugu, bok, blowfish, globefish, swellfish, balloonfish, or sea squab) from two known safe sources.

The safe sources are:

  1. Imported puffer fish that have been processed and prepared by specially trained and certified fish cutters in the city of Shimonoseki, Japan, and
  2. Puffer fish caught in the mid-Atlantic coastal waters of the United States, typically between Virginia and New York. Puffer fish from all other sources potentially contain deadly toxins and therefore are not considered safe.

Symptoms resulting from ingesting tetrodotoxin and/or saxitoxin include tingling of the lips and mouth, followed by dizziness, tingling in the extremities, problems with speaking, balance, muscle weakness and paralysis, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can begin anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours after eating the toxic fish. In extreme cases death can result from respiratory paralysis.

According to a press release from the American Society for Microbiology, researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College have added to the growing body of evidence that multiple sclerosis may be triggered by a toxin produced by common foodborne bacteria. The presented their research at the 2014 ASM Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research Meeting.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system characterized by blood brain (BBB) permeability and demyelination, a process in which the insulating myelin sheaths of neurons are damaged.   The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors. The environmental trigger of MS, however, is still unknown.  According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the condition affects approximately 400,000 Americans and is, with the exception of trauma, the most frequent cause of neurological disability beginning in early to middle adulthood.

“We provide evidence that supports epsilon toxin’s ability to cause BBB permeability and show that epsilon toxin kills the brain’s myelin producing cells, oligodendrocytes; the same cells that die in MS lesions,” says Jennifer Linden of Weill Cornell Medical College, who presented the research.  “We also show that epsilon toxin targets other cells types associated with MS inflammation such as the retinal vascular and meningeal cells.  Epsilon toxin may be responsible for triggering MS.”

Epsilon toxin is produced by certain strains of Clostridium perfringens, a spore-forming bacterium that is one of the most common causes of foodborne illness in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that non-epsilon toxin producing C. perfringens strains  cause nearly a million cases of foodborne illness each year.

Previous studies have suggested that C. perfringens, and in particular epsilon toxin, may play a role in triggering MS.  Late last year Linden and her colleagues discovered C. perfringens type B (a strain that is not known to infect humans and produces the epsilon toxin) in a 21-year-old woman who was experiencing a flare-up of her MS. To further test their hypothesis Linden and her colleagues studied the behavior of the toxin in mice, specifically which cells it targeted.

They discovered that the toxin did target the brain cells associated with MS pathology.  But that was not all they found.

“Originally, we only thought that epsilon toxin would target the brain endothelium cells and oligodendrocytes; we just happened to notice that it also bound to and killed meningeal cells.  This was exciting because it provides a possible explanation for meningeal inflammation and subpial cortical lesions exclusively observed in MS patients, but not fully understood,” says Linden.

They also tested samples of local foods for the presence of C. perfringens and the toxin gene.  Of the 37 food samples, 13.5% were positive for bacteria and 2.7% were positive for the epsilon toxin gene.

Linden says these findings are important, because if it can be confirmed that epsilon toxin is indeed a trigger of MS, development of a neutralizing antibody or vaccine directed against epsilon toxin might stop the progression of the disease or prevent it from even developing.

The CDC reports that as of July 24, 2013, 285 cases of Cyclospora infections have been confirmed from 11 states. The number of cases identified in each state is as follows: Iowa (138)†, Nebraska (70)†, Texas (66)†, Wisconsin (3), Georgia (2), Connecticut (1), Illinois (1)‡, Kansas (1)‡, Minnesota (1), New Jersey (1), and Ohio (1).

Most of the illness onset dates have ranged from mid-June through early July.

At least 18 persons reportedly have been hospitalized in three states.

No food items have been implicated to date, but public health authorities are pursuing all leads. Previous outbreak investigations have implicated various types of fresh produce.

It is not yet clear whether the cases from all of the states are part of the same outbreak.

No common events (e.g., social gatherings) have been identified among the case patients.

Additional cases are currently under investigation and will be included on this page as states confirm them.

The CDC reports that as of July 24, 2013, 153 people have been confirmed to have become ill from hepatitis A after eating “Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend” in 9 states:  Arizona (22), California (75), Colorado (27), Hawaii (8), New Hampshire (1), New Mexico (9), Nevada (6), Utah (3), and Wisconsin (2).

Illness onset dates range from 3/31/2013 – 7/9/2013.

66 (44%) ill people (all over 18 years of age) have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

The major outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens of 89 people in eight states: AZ (11), CA (34), CO (23), HI (7), NH (1 – travel to Nevada), NM (6), NV (6) and WI (2 – the person was exposed in California). This genotype is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East.

By combining information gained from FDA’s traceback and traceforward investigations and the CDC’s epidemiological investigation, FDA and CDC have determined that the most likely vehicle for the hepatitis A virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from a company in Turkey, Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading.  These pomegranate seeds were used by Townsend Farms to make the Townsend Farms and Harris Teeter Organic Antioxidant Blends and by Scenic Fruit Company to make the Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels.

A few months ago I was asked to write something by WSBA about my practice and life as a lawyer.  The ask was something like this:

Mr. Marler, I noted that you are a (“the” – I must admit I added that) preeminent litigator in food poisoning cases in our state (well, actually the “world” – I must admit I added that too). Our members would love an article from you describing a significant case or client that resonated with you, or a description of what it is like to practice in your area of law.

I thought a lot about the ask and my 20 plus years of practice, and the fact that I may well be at the downslope of a job that I truly love.  In a not so often-quite moment, I thought about the beginning of what became both my passion and my job.  Honestly, it has had very little to do with being a lawyer.

I had just turned 35-years-old and was only five years out of Law School, I was a young lawyer in a job that seemed quite dead-end, and then my world changed.

Lauren Beth Rudolph died on December 28, 1992 in her mother’s arms due to complications of an E. coli O157:H7 infection – Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome – also know as acute kidney failure.  She was only 6 years, 10 months, and 10 days old when she died. The autopsy described her perforated bowel as being the consistency of “jelly.”  Her death, the deaths of three other children, and the sicknesses of 600 others, were eventually linked to E. coli O157:H7 tainted hamburger produced by Von’s and served undercooked at Jack in the Box restaurants on the West Coast during late 1992 and January 1993.  I pushed myself to the front of the pack of lawyers.  Roni Rudolph, Lauren’s mom, I have known for nearly 20 years.

Dave Theno became head of Jack in the Box’s food safety shortly after the 1992-1993 outbreak. I too have known Dave for 20 years, mostly because I spent several days deposing (he would say – grilling/torturing) him over the course of the multi-year, multi-state litigation.  However, a decade after spending such quality time (for me anyway) with him, I only recently learned a significant fact about Dave – one that made me admire him even more – one that I think, that all leaders in corporate food safety, or any position of authority, should emulate.

Last year Dave and I shared the stage at the Nation Meat Association (NMA) annual “Meating” in Tampa as an odd pair of keynote speakers. The NMA is an association representing meat processors, suppliers, and exporters.  Dave, spoke just before I did and was rightly lauded as someone who takes food safety to heart.  However, it was his story about Lauren Rudolph and his relationship with Roni that struck me in a physical way.

Dave told the quiet audience about Lauren’s death. He too knew the same autopsy report.  Dave told the audience that the death of Lauren and his friendship with Roni had changed him also in a physical way. He told us all that he had carried a picture of Lauren in his briefcase everyday since he had taken the job at Jack in the Box. He told us that every time he needed to make a food safety decision – who to pick as a supplier, what certain specifications should be – he took out Lauren’s picture and asked, “What would Lauren want me to do?”

I thought how powerful that image was. The thought of a senior executive of any corporation holding the picture of a dead child seeking guidance to avoid the next possible illness or death is stunning, but completely appropriate.

I hugged Dave and we promised to get together again – sometime, someday.

Shortly after leaving Tampa, I spent time with a family in South Carolina whose 4 year old ate cookie dough tainted with E. coli O157:H7 and suffered months of hospitalizations, weeks of dialysis and seizures. She faces a lifetime of complications despite oversight by the Food and Drug Administration of the food she consumed.

After leaving South Carolina I headed to Cleveland, Ohio where I sat across the kitchen table with a family who lost their only daughter, Abby, because she died from an E. coli O157:H7 infection from meat inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Services.

Neither head of either agency, nor the president of either corporation, whose product took the life of one and nearly the life of the other, ever visited either family, and, that is a shame.

In 20 years of litigation, in 20 years of spending time with Lauren’s or Abby’s family, I am changed.  I see the world far differently than most do now.

If I had any advice to offer to corporate or governmental leaders – run your departments like Dave ran food safety at Jack in the Box. Go meet the families that Dave and I have met.  Sit across their kitchen tables. Go to their child’s hospital room and see more tubes and wires than you can count. Understand what these people have lived though. Take their stories into your heart.

It is hard, very hard, but it will give you a real reason to do your jobs and to love it.

As many as 24 other children and a cook are still under treatment at the Hospital.

According to Indian press reports, the Indian government has now made it mandatory for the principals and cooks of all primary schools in the state to taste mid-day meals before serving them to children.  The notice came in the wake of the death of as many as 25 children after they ate an insecticide-laced mid-day meal at a school in north Bihar.  The notice also said, “Officials of the education department going for inspection to schools should taste the meals cooked therein to ascertain their quality and mention the same in their inspection report.”

An interesting solution to a food safety problem.

Chef cooked for the Queen on her 80th birthday and his withering judgments on aspiring chefs have made him the star of the BBC’s Great British Menu series.

It has been only a week since I have been back from London, and it is good to see the Westminster Council taking on a Celebrity Chef behaving badly.  The Daily Mail reports that Marcus Wareing scored just one out of five for kitchen hygiene by failing a routine inspection.  Inspectors who visited the restaurant on June 5 cited ‘cross-contamination risks’ after seeing a vacuum-packing machine in the kitchen being used for both raw and cooked foods. The report said such equipment ‘cannot be effectively cleaned and disinfected in between use to eliminate the risks associated with pathogens such as E. coli.’ Inspectors also noted the presence of ‘fruit flies in the ground kitchen’ and recommended management ‘seek the services of a qualified pest control technician,’ as well as a lack of anti-bacterial soap, and staff washing their hands without soap.  Embarrassingly, inspectors noted that at the time of their visit ‘raw fish was stored above cooked crab in the fish fridge,’ one of the most basic health risks catering students are warned to avoid. The council inspectors also said it ‘was very disappointing to note that the record-keeping had ceased since April 2013.’

And the Chef’s response:  ‘Food safety, and the health of my team and customers, is not something I would knowingly jeopardize.’

Over at Barfblog, Dr. Powell points to a few prior outbreaks in the UK that Marcus Wareing should have noticed:

In 1996, 23 people died in an E. coli O157 outbreak when Scotland’s former butcher-of-the-year used the same knives on raw and cooked beef.

In 2005, a five-year-old child died and 160 sickened after a butcher used the same vacuum packaging machine on raw and cooked beef.

I am glad that was one restaurant I missed in London.

Sometimes there is little wonder why I still have a job.

The Bay Area’s NBC Investigation Unit reports that Sysco Corporation, one of the country’s largest food distributors, is facing major penalties after NBC Bay Area surveillance cameras caught Sysco employees storing raw meat, milk and vegetables food for hours before taking the food to restaurants all over Northern California.

“I’m shocked,” Pat Kennelly, Food Safety Chief of the California Department of Public Health, said after seeing NBC Bay Area’s exclusive video.

He said 14 state health inspectors fanned out across northern California from Monterey to Fort Bragg Tuesday morning. They were stunned to learn Sysco employees were using outdoor storage units as makeshift warehouses to keep raw meat, milk and other perishable foods for hours before delivering  them to restaurants.

The videos speak for themselves:

View more videos at:

View more videos at: