November 20, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and American University Washington College of Law will sponsor a day-long conference focusing on problems with the current food safety system in America, and how to improve it. The conference, Empowering Employees to Protect Food Integrity, starts at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning (registration begins at 8:45 a.m.).

Dr. David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner and best-selling author, is a featured speaker. In 2007, Kessler flatly stated that, "Simply put, our food safety system is broken." He will discuss steps to fix that system, including the centrality of enacting new legislation providing strong whistleblower protections for all food safety industry workers – both corporate and government – so they will feel empowered to blow the whistle on unsafe foods. Kessler has noted that without the insider guidance of whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, a former tobacco company executive, FDA would not have been able to make the case that nicotine should be regulated as a drug.

The luncheon speaker is William Marler, one of the nation’s most prominent food safety/poisoning attorneys. Marler and his law firm, MarlerClark, have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death.

"People doing their jobs well at every level of the food production chain is critical to food safety," said Marler. "It’s just as critical that employees can speak out if they see actions being taken that could jeopardize the safety of the food product being made, and consequently the safety of the consumers who might purchase it. Food workers are our first defense, and I applaud GAP for highlighting the importance of their contributions."

This symposium acknowledges the role of employees as a first line of defense against food adulteration. Expert panelists will discuss food integrity issues, as well as new and pending laws (including whistleblower protections). Specifically, panelists will address legal and legislative reforms, immigrant rights, humane handling, corporate farming, and the role of labor in food safety.

When: November 20, 2009

Where: American University, Washington College of Law

4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Room 603

Washington, D.C. 20016

Time: 8:45 a.m. – Continental Breakfast and Registration

9:30 a.m. – Conference Begins

Panel & Interview Schedule

Panel 1: A Case Study of the PCA Salmonella Outbreak (10:00 a.m.): This panel will review the events leading up to the PCA recall, and what measures need to be implemented to prevent a similar event from occurring. Panelists will explore the interplay between both federal and state food safety agencies and why these agencies were unable to prevent and promptly identify the foodborne pathogen that sickened and killed unsuspecting consumers. PCA panelists will discuss the local public health response to the outbreak, insufficient employee protections, and failures regarding interoperability of food safety agencies.

Panel 2: Lessons Learned from the Largest Meat Recall in History (11:15 a.m.): This panel will discuss the conditions that led to the nation’s largest beef recall in history. Panelists will review tactics that can be employed to prevent similar food safety disasters, discuss the failings and inadequate enforcement of public health and USDA regulations, and detail what steps are necessary to improve the existing system.

Luncheon Address: William Marler (1:15 p.m.): An accomplished personal injury lawyer and national expert in foodborne illness litigation, William Marler is a major force in food safety policy in the United States and abroad. He and his partners at Marler Clark, a Seattle-based law firm specializing in food poisoning, have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death. His advocacy for better food regulation has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, as well as congressional testimony.

Panel 3: Food Safety and Whistleblowing (2:00 p.m.): This panel includes presentations by those working in food production, as well as those fighting for greater worker protections. Panelists will share anecdotes, case studies, successes, failures and forecasts for progress in the realm of food integrity. The implications of food safety laws, with a special emphasis on the role of new food technologies vs. hands-on safety inspection, will be covered.

A Conversation with Dr. David Kessler (3:15 p.m.): GAP Executive Director Mark Cohen will interview former FDA Commissioner and best selling author Dr. David Kessler, covering a broad array of topics ranging from food integrity and safety to food wholesomeness, the public health implications of overeating, and the centrality of whistleblower protections to strengthen the food safety net. This interview will be recorded live for GAP’s television program, Whistle Where You Work, and telecast on the Free Speech TV channel via the DISH satellite network, over 60 cable channels nationwide, and in the United Kingdom.

All questions should be directed to GAP Communications Director Dylan Blaylock at, or 202.236.3733

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. We pursue this mission through our Nuclear Safety, International Reform, Corporate Accountability, Food & Drug Safety, and Federal Employee/National Security programs. GAP is the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization.