Unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and packaged juices. Unpasteurized milk, sometimes called “raw” milk, can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses and parasites. Between 1998 and 2011, there were 148 food poisoning outbreaks linked to raw milk and raw milk products in the US—and keep in mind that comparatively few people in the country ever consume these products, so 148 outbreaks is nothing to ignore. As for unpasteurized packaged juices, one of Marler’s earliest cases was the 1996 E. coli outbreak from unpasteurized Odwalla apple juice. As a result, he won’t go near raw milk or juice. “There’s no benefit big enough to take away the risk of drinking products that can be made safe by pasteurization,” he says.
Raw sprouts. Uncooked and lightly cooked sprouts have been linked to more than 30 bacterial outbreaks (mostly of Salmonella and E. coli) in the US since mid-1990s. As recently as 2014, salmonella from bean sprouts sent 19 people to the hospital. All types of sprouts—including alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish sprouts—can spread infection, which is caused by bacterial contamination of their seeds. “There have been too many outbreaks to not pay attention to the risk of sprout contamination,” Marler says. “Those are products that I just don’t eat at all.” He did add that he does eat them if they’re cooked.
Meat that isn’t well-done. Marler orders his burgers well-done. “The reason ground products are more problematic and need to be cooked more thoroughly is that any bacteria that’s on the surface of the meat can be ground inside of it,” Marler says. “If it’s not cooked thoroughly to 160°F throughout, it can cause poisoning by E. coli and Salmonella and other bacterial illnesses.” As for steaks, needle tenderizing—a common restaurant practice in which the steak is pierced with needles or sliced with knives to break down the muscle fibers and make it more tender—can also transfer bugs from the surface to the interior of the meat. If a restaurant does this (Marler asks), he orders his steak well-done. If the restaurant doesn’t, he’ll opt for medium-well.
Prewashed or precut fruits and vegetables. “I avoid these like the plague,” Marler says. Why? The more a food is handled and processed, the more likely it is to become tainted. “We’ve gotten so used to the convenience of mass-produced food—bagged salad and boxed salads and precut this and precut that,” Marler says. “Convenience is great but sometimes I think it isn’t worth the risk.” He buys unwashed, uncut produce in small amounts and eats it within three to four days to reduce the risk for Listeria, a deadly bug that grows at refrigerator temps.
Raw or undercooked eggs. You may remember the Salmonella epidemic of the 1980s and early ’90s that was linked mainly to eggs. If you swore off raw eggs back then, you might as well stick with it. The most recent salmonella outbreak from eggs, in 2010, caused roughly 2,000 reported cases of illness. “I think the risk of egg contamination is much lower today than it was 20 years ago for salmonella, but I still eat my eggs well-cooked,” Marler says.
Raw oysters and other raw shellfish. Marler says that raw shellfish—especially oysters—have been causing more foodborne illness lately. He links this to warming waters, which produce more microbial growth. “Oysters are filter feeders, so they pick up everything that’s in the water,” he explains. “If there’s bacteria in the water it’ll get into their system, and if you eat it you could have trouble. I’ve seen a lot more of that over the last five years than I saw in the last 20 years. It’s simply not worth the risk.”
William “Bill” Marler is a nationally recognized American personal injury lawyer and food safety advocate. He is the managing partner of Marler Clark, a Seattle, Washington, based law firm that specializes in foodborne illness cases.
First published at http://bottomlinehealth.com/health-insider/6-things-this-food-safety-expert-wont-eatand-one-surprising-food-he-will/ Copyright © 2016 by Boardroom Inc., 281 Tresser Blvd., Stamford, Connecticut 06901-3229. www.BottomLineHealth.com
2016 – Civil Beat News, Rui Kaneya August 22, 2016
2016 – This genius lawyer is our best hope against deadly food poisoning Kiera Butler Mother Jones May 20, 2016
2015 – Profile in Obsession: Bill Marler, By Naomi Tomky March 24, 2015
2015 – The New Yorker – A Bug in the System
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2014 – Q&A: Food Safety Lawyer Bill Marler on What Not to Eat
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2012 – Bill Marler, Attorney, Blogger, and Food Safety Advocate, Talks Turkey (Or Spinach, Rather)
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2012 – Bill Marler Interview, Part Two: His Most Difficult Cases and Lobbying Congress
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2012 – Profiles in Public Health Law: Interview with William “Bill” Marler CDC Public Health Law News, July.
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2011- Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat.
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2011 – New Book Chronicles Islander Marler’s Work.
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2010 – Food Safety Lawyer Puts His Money Where Your Mouth Is
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2009 – Food Safety Lawyer’s Wish: Put Me Out of Business
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2009 – WSU Discourse on Food Safety, Courtesy Seattle Lawyer
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2009 – When Food Sickens, He Heads for Courthouse
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2009 – Heath Surveillance the Key to Fresh Produce
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2008 – Seattle Food Contamination Expert in China as Tainted Milk Sickens Thousands of Kids
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2008 – E. Coli Lawyer Is Busier Than Ever
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2007 – Legally Speaking: The Food Poisoning Lawyer
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2007 – The Nation’s Leading Food-borne Illness Attorney Tells All
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2007 – Mr. Food Illness Esquire
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2006 – Seattle Attorney Dominates Food-Borne Illness Litigation
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2006 – How a Tiny Law Firm Made Hay Out of Tainted Spinach
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2005 – Bill Marler – Education Holds Key in Tainted Food Fight
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2001 – Hammer Time: Preparation Pays When Disputes Escalate to Lawsuits
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2001 – The Bug That Ate The Burger
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1999 – Courting Publicity, Attorney Makes Safe Food His Business
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