As we promised, Bill Marler was making news today on Capitol Hill. Along with a bench full of food industry executives, Marler testified before the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Michigan’s John D. Dingell.
We go to Andrew Schneider’s blog at the Seattle P-I for a quick summary of Bill’s major points:
Seattle lawyer William Marler gave the lawmaker an up close and personal view of many victims of food poisoning that he had encountered.
Marler, who has been involved in food safety litigation since the ’70s, offered the committee specific recommendation on how the nation’s food safety system should be improved.
Create a local, state and national public health system that catches outbreaks before they balloon into a personal and business catastrophe, he said. He explained that everyone believed that the Jack in the Box outbreak that killed four and sickened scores of others started in Seattle in January 1993. But he said it actually began three months earlier "when another child died and another 30 people were sickened in Southern California. He said E. coli was not a reportable illness at the time, "the death and illnesses were not recognized as an outbreak and the contaminated meat was shipped to Seattle."
He said that food must be inspected and sampled before it is consumed. He reminded the committee members that the GAO has warned in the past that our food sampling and inspection is so scattered and infrequent that there is little chance of detecting microscopic E. coli or any other pathogen for that matter.
Consumers, he said, need to know what is being recalled. Voluntary recalls don’t work.
Marler warned that turf wars and split responsibilities are gutting the effectiveness of the nation’s food safety system and the three federal agencies responsible – CDC, FDA and USDA – should have the food safety mandates merged and properly staffed and funded.
See the rest of the P-I blog here.