Food-Borne Illness Attorney: Top Foods to Avoid

Sep 29, 2011 6:53pm

There are just some foods that Bill Marler won’t eat.

As one of the leading attorneys in the country for food-borne illness lawsuits, he is representing several people infected with listeria after consuming tainted cantaloupe from Colorado’s Jensen Farms. Given that, it’s understandable why he’s so picky.

In an interview with ABC’s News’ Neal Karlinsky, Marler gave a list of foods he avoids because they can be high risk for food-borne illnesses:

  • Ground beef or turkey
  • Bagged salad
  • Raw oysters
  • Unpasteurized juice or milk
  • Sprouts

That includes no hamburgers. Marler even goes as far as to have never let his three teenage daughters eat hamburgers either.

“I’ve represented, you know, hundreds of people who’ve been sickened or killed by them, so I have a different perspective on hamburger than I think most people do,” he said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that 13 deaths and 72 illnesses have been connected to the listeria-tainted cantaloupes. Marler, who has worked on dozens of major food-borne illness cases, called this outbreak “stunning.”

“People die, we all will, but you shouldn’t die from eating cantaloupe,” he said. “You shouldn’t die from eating food. You shouldn’t die from having a meal with a friend. It just shouldn’t be that way.”

Marler also speculated that the cantaloupes became tainted somewhere in the processing facility, after they were picked but before they were shipped out.

“Most bugs, if you put a food product into a refrigerator, it dampens down the bacterial growth,” he told Karlinsky. “For listeria, it grows it…the processing environment where they’re washing cantaloupes and their cooling them down is a perfect place for listeria to grow.”

Many watchdog groups and food safety advocates have used the listeria outbreak to point fingers at the federal government. In June, the House approved a federal budget for the 2012 fiscal year, which slashed food safety funding — an almost 12 percent cut to the FDA, and a 3.4 percent cut to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

But for Marler, the blame for bacteria outbreaks lie with the companies that are mass-producing the food.

“Ultimately it is the manufacturer, it’s the shipper, it’s the retailer that is selling us food,” he said. “They have an obligation to make sure that the food that they’re selling us is as free of pathogens as humanly possible.”

READ: Tips for preventing Listeriosis and other food-borne illnesses.

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