Washington Post reporter Annys Shinn commented on the Government Accountability Organization’s listing of food safety as "high risk" in a recent blog post titled, "Would One Food Safety Agency Mean Better Oversight?" In the post, she analyzes what the GAO said about food safety, and continues her discussion on the topic:
Interestingly, though, fragmented oversight didn’t emerge as the biggest concern during last fall’s outbreaks. A dearth of resources at the FDA certainly did. The absence of mandatory standards for produce growers did, too. And since President Clinton left office, we’ve seen what can happen when the federal government decides to create a brand new agency. (I’m thinking of a little department called Homeland Security. Being part of DHS didn’t seem to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina.) Some food safety advocates also wonder if one agency would simply create one-stop shopping for lobbyists looking to find ways of preempting tougher state food safety standards.
To be fair, the GAO isn’t advocating one agency. Just a "fundamental reexamination."
And who can argue with that?
One food safety advocate who hasn’t called for a single food safety agency, but who has called for congressional hearings on food safety and has encouraged a debate over whether the formation of a single food safety agency would really improve food safety, is attorney Bill Marler, who was recently called "Mr. Food Illness Esquire" in an on-line article/interview for QSR magazine.
QSR reporter Fred Minnick got right to the point, asking Marler if being advocating for food safety was contrary to his interest in representing people who have been sickened in food poisoning outbreaks.
You talk to people about food safety, and you sue restaurants and food suppliers. Isn’t that a conflict of interest?
My partners and lawyer buddies ask the same question. But I look at the law as a tool for social change.
Well, you’ve certainly left your mark on society. And it all started in 1993. How did you get the Jack in the Box case?
It was 75 percent dumb luck, and 25 percent hard work. I happened to be in Seattle when the Jack in the Box case hit, and Seattle really was the epicenter. I litigated the Jack in the Box case for two years and then settled $35-million worth of cases over the course of several months….Then, the Odwalla case hit. (Also in Seattle). That went on until 1998. Then shortly after that, I hired Bruce Clark and Denis Sterns, who had defended Jack in the Box. We started Marler Clark.