It has been a busy week with 76 sickened and 1 death linked to Salmonella Heildelberg Ground Turkey and a non-recall:
Poultry and many other meats are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which cannot move to recall a tainted product until a link to illness has been made.
One of the few exceptions to that is the finding of the particularly lethal bug E. coli O157 in meat, which starts the recall process.
Food safety attorney Bill Marler told Reuters that a “more logical approach” would be for USDA to adopt recall procedures like those used at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
FDA regulates about 80 percent of the U.S. food supply, including lettuce and other produce. It can push companies to recall a food that tests positive for a disease-causing pathogen, even if no illness has been reported.
Roughly 10 to 15 percent of ground turkey in the United States is contaminated with Salmonella, which has proved one of the toughest pathogens to contain in the country’s food supply, experts said.
DeWaal, of CSPI, has petitioned USDA to add Salmonella Heidelberg and three other antibiotic-resistant strains linked to prior outbreaks to its list of “adulterants,” joining the deadly E. coli O157. That step would make selling food products that contain those pathogens illegal under federal law.
Attorney Marler also has urged USDA to extend adulterant status to all Shiga toxin-producing E. coli strains other than 0157. Such a strain was implicated in two deadly outbreaks that killed more than 50 people and sickened more than 4,400 others in Europe and North America. (Reuter)
“I think we really need to do more to have a better surveillance system in the United States,” said food safety advocate Bill Marler. (KARE TV)
Bill Marler, the nation’s leading food poisoning attorney, reiterated his support for declaring certain resistant strains of Salmonella as adulterants.
“We’ve had many calls from concerned people, many of them victims in this Cargill Salmonella outbreak, who are wondering how this type of pathogen got in their food,” said Marler, whose firm Marler Clark, publisher of Food Safety News, has been retained by a number of ground turkey Salmonella outbreak victims. “It’s a real shock for them to hear that the government doesn’t currently ban this sort of bug.” (Food Safety News)
The recall involves ground turkey produced as early as February, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture had indications going back to at least July 20 that the culprit might be a Cargill plant in Arkansas.
“Given the facts as we know them, [regulators] should have pulled the trigger on a recall at least two weeks ago,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in food safety cases. “That being said, it’s always a difficult balance [for regulators] to get it right.” (Star Tribune)
Food safety advocates criticized federal officials for not alerting the public quickly enough.
“I think the government’s handling of this outbreak and recall has been pathetic,” said William D. Marler, a Seattle attorney who represents food poisoning victims. (Washington Post)
“As this is an ongoing outbreak, this is likely a frozen product people have in their freezers,” said William D. Marler, a leading food safety litigation lawyer.
“What FSIS should be saying is, ‘Don’t eat frozen turkey products until we know what products are safe and what aren’t.’ They’re not telling the public anything that they can use to help protect themselves,” Marler said. (LA Times)
“This is sort of a perplexing announcement,” said Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who has represented victims in the nation’s largest foodborne illness outbreaks.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, but I can’t think of a situation where there have been ill people and (the government) issued a consumer alert, but did not come out with a name of a product,” such as fresh, frozen or a specific turkey product, Marler said.
Marler and about 2,500 food safety officials from around the world are in Milwaukee through Wednesday to discuss broader food safety issues, including the E. coli outbreak in Europe that killed at least 50 people and sickened thousands. (Milwaukee Journal)
Food safety advocate Bill Marler, an attorney who has represented victims of the nation’s biggest food-borne illness outbreaks, said he believes the three positive samples should prompt a recall.
“Consumers have no idea what to do except not eat ground turkey,” he said. (AP)
Food safety advocate and lawyer Bill Marler acknowledged that 77 infections scattered across 26 states “would not necessarily raise red flags.”
Still, the government “should have explained to the public why they’re not giving out more information” about the outbreak, said Marler, speaking by phone from a conference in Wisconsin on food safety.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years. I can’t recall a time that a public agency like this put out an advisory that didn’t tell the consumer anything.”
Marler, who is based in Seattle, represented victims’ families in the widely publicized 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli cases, as well as people sickened during the 2006 E. coli epidemic linked to bagged spinach.
The lack of information on the latest outbreak taints turkey producers across the nation, Marler said.
“If I was a ground turkey producer not linked to this, I’d be pretty upset. They should do a better job explaining that they’re doing this out of an abundance of caution for the public health.” (Sacramento Bee)
The recall was among the largest ever for meat products associated with an outbreak of illness, said William Marler, a Seattle lawyer who specializes in food poisoning cases. (New York Times)
About 10 minutes after I hit the button on this, the Associated Press published a bulletin that Cargill Inc. will recall 36 million pounds of ground turkey because of the US outbreak and death. The recall appears to have been prompted by sleuthing by ferocious food-safety lawyer Bill Marler, who identified the plant Thursday afternoon. (Wired)
Bill Marler, a food safety attorney, had an alert out on the recall before the company announced it.
Marler said reports of illness over such a long period of time suggests “a systemic problem in the plant and not just a blip on the screen.” (Reuters)
Seattle food-safety lawyer Bill Marler says the public should have been told long ago what products were obviously sickening people. “I don’t think it serves the Food Safety Inspection Service well because it makes it look as if they’re doing the industry’s bidding, when I in fact know that’s not what they’re doing.” (USA Today)
“This is, if not the largest, one of the largest class-one food recalls to happen in U.S. history,” said William D. Marler, a Seattle attorney who specializes in food safety litigation. A class-one recall involves a health hazard that has a reasonable probability of causing health problems or death. (LA Times)