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Food Safety Expert Calls on U.S. to “Get Proactive” About E. coli

SEATTLE -- In the midst of a massive E. coli O104:H4 outbreak centered in Germany, food poisoning attorney Bill Marler is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and food safety agencies worldwide to list all pathogenic non-O157 E. coli strains as adulterants in food and create science-based testing protocols.

Coming on the heels of an April 2011 E. coli O111 outbreak in Japan that killed 4 and sickened 100, the recent European outbreak continues to grow at a startling pace, thus far killing 17 and sickening 1,534. Of those, 470 people have contracted the often life-threatening hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) that can result in kidney failure.

At least one American tourist has fallen victim in the outbreak and is currently hospitalized in the Czech Republic. While the cause of the outbreak is currently unknown, produce from both Germany and Spain have been suspected. Recently Slugs were deemed a possible source.

Though considered dangerous by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), neither the USDA nor FDA presently regulate non-O157 E. coli bacteria. Food manufacturers, distributers and sellers are not required to test for these strains of pathogenic E. coli in the food supply, something Marler hopes will change in light of recent events.

“The tragedies in Germany and Japan should serve as a wakeup call to governments and businesses worldwide. The U.S. is seeing more and more E. coli outbreaks from non-O157 strains,” said Marler. “At this moment the USDA, FDA, and other public health agencies have an opportunity to exercise good policy by getting proactive about food safety and instituting science-based testing that will curb future outbreaks.”

Though catalyzed by the recent outbreaks, this is not the first instance in which Marler has called on the government to demand more of food producers. In 2009 he petitioned the USDA to declare all Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, including non-O157 serotypes, to be adulterants. In 2010 he spent $500,000 of his own money to fund a study testing for non-O157 E. coli in American grocery stores. In that study, he found both the E. coli O111 and E. coli O104 strains.

“These days some may say I spend more time advocating for food safety than I do litigating foodborne illness,” added Marler. “There may be some truth to that, but for good reason. When you’ve seen the horror involved in severe foodborne illness cases, you do everything in your power to prevent them from happening – a sentiment I hope the USDA, FDA, the President, and the international community share.”

BILL MARLER travels frequently around the globe speaking on foodborne illness and is a leading expert on food safety. His firm MARLER CLARK, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the only law firm in the U.S. with a practice dedicated solely to representing victims of foodborne illness. To contact Mr. Marler, email Cody Moore at or call 1-800-884-9840.

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