Bill Marler, Food Safety Lawyer, Shares Lessons With Food Industry Leaders
Food Poison Journal
Published: July 27, 2011
By: Bill Marler
In the last 20 years, food safety attorney Bill Marler has sued hundreds of large food companies on behalf of thousands of victims of foodborne illness. He has recovered hundreds of millions in settlements and judgments for clients and has helped prompt drastic changes in food safety standards. Now, in an effort to give back to his former foes, Marler is sending hundreds of copies of the new book, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat, to the CEO of every major company he’s sued. Poisoned, written by best-selling author Jeff Benedict, is an emotional blow-by-blow account of the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that made E. coli a household word in the U.S. Marler is a main character in the book, and has remained the most consistent player in foodborne illness outbreak litigation since.
“I’m giving this book as a gift to food company CEOs and food safety department heads as a reminder that foodborne illness outbreaks are not only devastating for the people who suffer illness, but also for the companies involved,” said Marler. “Jack in the Box learned a tough food safety lesson through a very unfortunate turn of events, and these CEOs have learned similar lessons. I want to help make sure they’re not forgotten.”
Whereas the 1993 Jack in the Box outbreak introduced the public to E. coli O157:H7, this summer’s record Germany-based E. coli O104:H4 outbreak that sickened thousands and killed 50 has sparked conversation about whether the U.S. is prepared to prevent another major E. coli outbreak, possibly from an other, “non-O157” E. coli strain, from happening here.
Food industry leaders like BPI, Costco, Earthbound Farms, and Ready Pac have been testing their products for the presence of E. coli O157:H7 for years, and are now implementing procedures to test for non-O157:H7 strains of E. coli.
“I think these companies have gotten the message and are now putting customers first by putting food safety first,” added Marler. “Perhaps after reading Poisoned other food companies will look a little more closely at their own food safety procedures, as well as those of their partners in the supply chain.”