Pros and Cons of Irradiation: A Legal Perspective with Bill Marler


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Premiere food safety law firm Marler Clark Managing Partner Bill Marler's presentation on the pros and cons of irradiation in the produce industry. Originally given at the 2009 IFT conference. Marler Clark.

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Pros and Cons of Irradiation: A Legal Perspective with Bill Marler

  1. 2. Lettuce and Spinach <ul><li>Over 23 E. coli outbreaks since 1995 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hundreds of reported illnesses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Several deaths </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Fresh or fresh-cut lettuce or spinach </li></ul><ul><li>9 outbreaks traced back to produce from Salinas, California </li></ul>
  2. 3. 2006 Wendy’s E. coli Outbreak <ul><li>Utah - June 2006 </li></ul><ul><li>E. coli O21:H19 – only 3 culture-positive cases, although over 50 cases probable </li></ul><ul><li>3 HUS, 2 adult women,1 with 30 days, the other with 4 months of dialysis </li></ul><ul><li>Likely lettuce from California </li></ul>
  3. 4. Dole and Natural Selections – Fall 2006 <ul><li>205 persons infected with outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 from 26 states. </li></ul><ul><li>102 (51%) hospitalized </li></ul><ul><li>31 (16%) developed hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) </li></ul><ul><li>Three confirmed deaths – likely five </li></ul>
  4. 5. Dole and Natural Selections – Fall 2006 <ul><li>E. coli O157:H7 </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Isolated from 16 packages of DOLE spinach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ DNA fingerprints” of all 16 match the outbreak strain </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supplied by patients living in 10 states </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Eleven packages with lot codes consistent with a single manufacturing facility on a particular day </li></ul></ul>
  5. 6. Taco E. coli Litigation Status <ul><li>Multiple lawsuits filed in Courts in a 5 States </li></ul><ul><li>Taco Bell and Ready-Pac </li></ul><ul><li>Taco John’s and Bix </li></ul><ul><li>Lettuce supplier to Bix - Outbreak PFGE found on nearby Farm </li></ul>
  6. 7. Aunt Mid’s E. coli Lettuce <ul><li>At Least 40 cases in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Canada </li></ul><ul><li>Traceback looking at Salinas, Michigan, and California Central Valley </li></ul>
  7. 8. What Could Irradiation Prevent?
  8. 9. FDA Final Rule ( 73 FR 49593 ) <ul><li>Fresh Iceberg lettuce and Spinach – “reduce the level of potentially dangerous microbial pathogens….The FDA has assessed the safety … and has concluded that it will not adversely affect the safety of these products.” </li></ul><ul><li>However, “Irradiation is voluntary.” </li></ul>
  9. 10. Food Irradiation from a Legal Perspective <ul><li>Strict Liability – If the food has a pathogen and it makes someone ill – you pay! </li></ul><ul><li>So, why Irradiate? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Reduce risk of illnesses and lawsuits </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Susceptible Populations – the very young and elderly – schools and nursing homes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Punitive Damages – failure to use may well “constitute a conscious disregard of a known risk” </li></ul></ul>