Sunday, June 19, 2011

Work of Visiting Professor, Bill Marler Featured in New Book: Poisoned

For the past two years, the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law has been honored to have nationally recognized food safety attorney, Bill Marler, associated with our food safety studies.

Last year, Bill and his partner at Marler Clark, Denis Stearns, offered a special condensed course, Unsafe Foods & Product Liability, and we are delighted to announce that we will again be able to offer this excellent class this coming fall semester.

Bill's current work in advocating for improved food safety in the U.S. and abroad is frequently in the media.  He is often credited with aiding in the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, as his advocacy for food safety reform and greater FDA accountability has been well documented.  He has been warning of the dangers of new deadly strains of E. coli for years, petitioning the USDA for additional testing long before the recent outbreak in Germany.  His online newspaper, Food Safety News, is the go-to source of current food safety news and information, and he actively maintains a number of informative food safety blogs, including the Marler Blog.  He is a regular face on Twitter -  that is actually how I first met him.  Just this morning he tweeted and blogged about a new case that Marler Clark is bringing on behalf of the family of an Ohio woman who died of Salmonella poisoning.

How did Bill Marler become such a force majeure in food safety law?  When did we first begin to worry about E. Coli outbreaks and begin to recraft our food safety system?  A new book tells the story.

Poisoned, The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat by Jeff Benedict was released last month, and it has received excellent reviews.  The book tells the story of the 1993 E. coli outbreak at the Seattle, Washington Jack in the Box fast food hamburger restaurant.  Seven-hundred and fifty children were poisoned and four died.

Before that tragic incident, few in the public had ever even heard of E. coli, the CDC did not list is as a reportable disease, and only a few food scientists and public health officials recognized its risk.  Afterwards, there were Congressional hearings, a change in USDA inspection regulations, and a new awareness among consumers.

Bill Marler was the young attorney who sued Jack in the Box, and that case gave rise to Marler Clark as the nation's first law firm dedicated to representing victims of serious food borne illness.  Poisoned is the story of the victims of the Jack in the Box food poisoning outbreak, but it is also the story of Bill Marler and the beginnings of a passion for food safety that would become his life's work.  It is a fascinating and compelling read.  For consumers, it is eye-opening and thought provoking.  For our LL.M. candidates and our alumni who have had a chance to meet Bill Marler, it is a reminder that we are very fortunate to have him on our faculty.

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