Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bill Marler Teaches Food Safety Litigation Class

This past week, we were pleased to welcome our distinguished visiting professor, Bill Marler for the condensed course that he teaches on Food Safety Litigation. The first two hours of his class were conducted as a public forum, with good attendance from the law school, others from the University of Arkansas, and the wider community.

An accomplished attorney and national food safety expert, William (Bill) Marler is recognized as the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America and a major force in food policy. His firm, Marler Clark has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose products have caused serious illness or death, securing over $600,000,000 for victims of E. coli, Salmonella, and other foodborne illnesses.  He is the founder of the popular online newspaper, FoodSafetyNews, a blogger and tweeter with a large following, and a frequent commentator on food safety issues.  Marler Clark is a sponsor of our Graduate Assistantship program, with Allie Condra serving as the 2011-12 Marler Clark Graduate Assistant.

Bill Marler was a strong proponent of the Food Safety Modernization Act that was signed into law in January of 2011. This was the first major reform of the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) food safety regime in seventy years. It shifts the FDA focus from reactive to preventative, expands FDA powers to inspect and recall, establishes risk-based priorities, and addresses major weaknesses in import safety assurances.  Bill advocated for the legislation, writing about the need for better consumer protection, testifying before Congress, and speaking to the media about the need for stronger food safety regulation.  His public forum topic was, How the Food Safety Modernization Act Came About:  Food Safety and Forces of Change.

As part of the condensed course, Bill brought popular author Jeff Benedict to Arkansas to talk to the class. Jeff is the author of the well received 2011 book, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat.  This book chronicles the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in 1993 and its impact on our food safety system.  As one review notes, the book provides a "jarringly candid narrative of the fast-moving disaster drawing on access to key documents and exclusive interviews with the real-life characters at the center of the drama - the families whose children were infected, the Jack in the Box executives forced to answer for the tragedy, the physicians and scientists who identified E. coli as the culprit, and the legal teams on both sides of the historic lawsuits that ensued."  Central to the story is the young lawyer, Bill Marler, who "staked his career on bringing the victims justice without compromise."

The LL.M. candidates truly enjoyed the class and the opportunity to get to know Bill and Jeff. They each did a great job in the classroom. Our appreciation is extended to them for providing such a fantastic experience to our class.


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