William Marler, the prominent attorney and food safety expert who has represented thousands of victims of foodborne illness, is calling on Congress to investigate the ongoing Listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevetion (CDC) the outbreak, now the second most deadly in U.S. history, has sickened at least 123, causing 25 deaths and at least one miscarriage.
Last month, state and federal public health agencies linked the outbreak to Colorado-based Jensen Farms. On October 19, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report detailing unsanitary conditions and widespread contamination throughout the Jensen Farms packing facility despite the farm’s score of 96 on a scale of 100 during a food safety audit conducted by a third-party private company days before the outbreak was announced.
“It’s crystal clear that the entire chain of production – from grower, processor, wholesaler, shipper and retailer – is at fault in this outbreak. We are seeing a failure of the food protection system on several levels,” said Marler.
Currently there are no accreditation procedures to verify companies performing third-party audits. According to nationwide news reports, the cantaloupe industry as a whole is undergoing large-scale economic losses due to the outbreak.
“For the sake of the families affected by this tragedy, for the future of production practices, and for the sake of the cantaloupe industry, Congress needs to conduct an investigation as soon as possible,” Marler continued.
Earlier this month, dozens of Marler’s clients sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee imploring it to hold hearings on the outbreak. Marler said he intends to send another letter next week with additional signatories.
“At the core of this are mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters; all of whom have seen a loved one endure horrible pain and suffering or even death–all because they ate cantaloupe. Never mind the industry losses and the obvious systematic problems; on the most basic human level, these people deserve an explanation.”