Food Safety Advocate Demands Reform of Inspection and Meat Recall system
ConAgra case proves process is “completely broken” as USDA failed to immediately notify meat processor of tainted beef
SEATTLE, WA — Bill Marler, the Seattle-based attorney who has successfully lobbied for stronger regulations regarding food processing and handling, is demanding legislators and government officials begin an immediate examination of the meat recall system, which he believes failed consumers who became ill after eating tainted beef from meat processor, ConAgra.
Marler, along with his law firm, Marler Clark, is representing thirteen individuals in Colorado and South Dakota who were sickened by E. coli O157:H7 from hamburger produced by Greeley, CO-based ConAgra. Of these victims, four are children, ranging in age from 2 to 16, who all suffered kidney failure during hospitalization.
“This recent USDA recall is a sham,” said Marler, who, has been a voice for tougher food safety policies for over a decade. “The USDA and the meat industry know it means absolutely nothing. The announcement for the recall came so late that most, if not all, of the meat had most likely been consumed. This recall should have happened the moment the USDA received the first positive E. coli sample, not days or weeks afterward. The industry inspection and meat recall system is completely broken and needs immediate reform to protect the public.”
Marler believes a complete investigation and overhaul of the food inspection and recall process is essential and should be implemented immediately. Some of his suggestions, based on years of experience working with the industry, include:
· The formation of a single agency independent of the USDA, which would be responsible for protecting the entire food supply. This would be made possible by merging the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
· Allowing this new agency to have absolute authority in recalling food immediately upon discovering or suspecting it is contaminated or unwholesome for public consumption.
· Increasing the numbers and power of food inspectors at all critical points in the food production system.
· Implementation of a scientifically-based food testing system for food-borne pathogens by expanding the present sampling program.
· Requiring the industry to document where all food products are sold so recalls and trace-backs can work effectively and efficiently.
“By putting a few simple checks and balances into the current system, the government and the food-processing industry could virtually eliminate any and all cases of food-borne illness, saving consumers money, time, and heartache,” said Marler.
Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of all food-borne illnesses, and is currently lead counsel in actions resulting from E. coli, Salmonella, Shigella, Listeria, Norwalk Virus or Hepatitis A outbreaks in over twenty states.
More about the ConAgra ground beef E. coli outbreak can be found in the Case News area of this site.