Food safety attorney Bill Marler advocates for stricter regulations on imports coming into U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is reporting that, as of August 9, 141 people have been infected with strains of Salmonella traced back to papayas imported from Mexico.

Nineteen states have confirmed cases, including Connecticut (5), Delaware (4), Iowa (2), Kentucky (3), Louisiana (2), Maryland (8), Massachusetts (6), Michigan (1), Minnesota (4), North Carolina (3), New Jersey (27), New York (39), Ohio (1), Oklahoma (4), Pennsylvania (8), Texas (7), Virginia (14), and Wisconsin (1). Victims range in age from 1 year to 95 with a median age of 39. One death—a victim from New York—has been attributed to this outbreak.

Despite the heavy toll already caused by this outbreak, it’s possible new cases may come to light. Based on the information collected to date, the CDC is recommending consumers not eat Maradol papayas from the Carica de Campeche farm in Mexico. When in doubt about the origins of a papaya, the CDC is cautioning consumers and restaurants to throw it out.

According to Bill Marler, food safety advocate and attorney, this latest outbreak is just the latest in what is proving to be an increasingly disturbing trend. In an Op-Ed for The Hill, Marler writes how the U.S. relys on imports for “some of our most nutritionally important but more risky commodities” and how imported foods are making up a bigger and bigger part of the average American’s diet. In 2014, the U.S. imported nearly $50 billion in food from just four countries—Mexico, Canada, China, and India. This practice has come at a price—recent largescale foodborne illnesses have been traced back to scallops, strawberries, and other whole foods imported into the U.S.

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)—a bi-partisan piece of legislation passed during the Obama administration—was supposed to increase scrutiny of imported foods, but, unfortunately, Congress has not adequately funded this portion of the program. And the problem isn’t going to go away: President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget actually cuts $83 million from the FDA’s food safety programs. Illnesses tied to foodborne illness in the U.S. cost an estimated $55 billion a year.

“As a lawyer who has represented thousands of victims of foodborne illnesses over the last 25 years, I have seen the devastation that can be caused by pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. I have been to funerals and watched children struggle in ICUs,” writes Marler.

“Spending money on food safety is smart, and spending money making sure that the imported foods we consume are not tainted with a pathogen that can kill your child or ruin our farmers is even smarter.”

ABOUT BILL MARLER

Bill Marler is an accomplished food safety advocate and attorney. He began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he successfully represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Over the years, Bill and his firm, Marler Clark, have become the leaders in representing victims of foodborne illness, and have gone against companies that include Odwalla, Chili’s, ConAgra, Dole, KFC, Sizzler, Golden Corral and Wendy’s.

Bill spends much of his time traveling to address food industry groups, fair associations, and public health groups about foodborne illness, related litigation, and surrounding issues. He has testified before Congress as well as State Legislatures. He is a frequent author of articles related to foodborne illness in food safety journals and magazines as well as on his personal blog, www.marlerblog.com. Bill also recently founded Food Safety News (www.foodsafetynews.com) as a one-stop resource for global food safety news and information.