9 things this top food safety lawyer won't eat at home or in a restaurant


When the pre-cut melon salmonella outbreak hit earlier this month, anybody who has had more than a few conversations with food safety attorney Bill Marler could hear his "I told you so."

Pre-cut fruit is on the list of foods avoided by Marler, one of the two name partners in Marler Clark, which claims to be the nation's only exclusively food-borne illness law firm.

In 25 years as a food safety attorney, Marler's seen how the sausage — and soup, salad, steak, etc. — is made and what happens when things go wrong (many Marler Clark clients' cases involved hospitalization or death from food-borne illness).

Upon request, Marler recently emailed the Miami Herald the list of foods you won't see on his table.

— Unpasteurized milk or juice, also called "raw milk" and "raw juice." "Raw milk directly from a cow can be infected with all types of bacteria," Marler said. "Some argue that milk loses nutrients during pasteurization, but this is patently false. Skipping pasteurization means an increased risk of contamination by bacteria, viruses, and parasites."

— Raw sprouts. "Raw sprouts are dangerous because of their growing process. The seeds are sprouted in standing water that can grow bacteria. There have been too many outbreaks to not pay attention to the risk of sprout contamination." Seven outbreaks — four salmonella, two E. coli, one listeria — since 2014 trace back to sprouts, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

— Meat that isn't well done. Steak connoisseurs will wail. Chefs might rend garments. But Marler got his start in the food safety niche working for plaintiffs whose children died in the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. So he has no problem insisting, "Meat needs to be cooked to 160 degrees throughout to kill bacteria that could cause E. coli or salmonella."

— Pre-cut vegetables. This includes packaged salads. The outbreak record speaks for itself: 79 outbreaks in the last 23 years, the most recent being this spring's romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak that sickened 197 people and killed five. That was the biggest E. coli outbreak of any kind in the United States since the 2006 leafy spinach outbreak that infected 199. In answering why romaine lettuce was involved in so many outbreaks, the FDA's Dr. Stic Harris probably covered lettuce and salads in general when he said, "It's not something that's cooked. There is no kill step (for the bacteria)."

— Prewashed or pre-cut fruits. Your grocery might pre-cut the fruit in the back. Or, it might get pre-cut fruit from a plant in another state, such as the retailers in the current pre-cut salmonella outbreak that traces back to Caito Foods' Indianapolis plant. Either way, Marler says, "The convenience is nice, but the more people handling, and processing food means more chances for contamination."

— Raw or undercooked eggs. "Raw and undercooked eggs can carry salmonella," Marler said. "Although it is much safer now than in the '80s and '90s, it is not worth the risk." It should be noted that this spring's shell-egg salmonella outbreak mushroomed not from problems in home preparation, but problems at Rose Acre Farms' Hyde County, North Carolina, facility. Among those problems: butt-scratching.

— Raw shellfish, especially raw oysters. "Food-borne illness linked to shellfish has increased dramatically in the past five years because of global warming," Marler says. "Warmer water increases microbial growth, which ends up in filter feeders such as oysters."

— Raw water. Marler says "unfiltered water can contain animal feces, Giardia, and any number of bacteria. You never know what is upstream."

— Uncooked flour. Marler says "uncooked flour can spread bacteria such as E. coli. In 2015 and 2016, 56 people developed E. coli infections from eating uncooked flour."


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Cooking and Recipes

Buy This: These three things have us thinking “chicken” 
Buy This: These three things have us thinking “chicken” 

Chickens on the counter, chickens for dinner and chickens on you!  In Smyrna, Julie Jones is making ceramic chickens with tons of personality. Jones started making her chickens over a decade ago. The instructor at a pottery class at the Mable House challenged students to turn a thrown clay cylinder into a bird. Jones made a chicken and she&rsquo...
SweetWater Brewing reveals new taproom renovation news, events
SweetWater Brewing reveals new taproom renovation news, events

SweetWater Brewing will be closing its taproom on Oct. 1 to make way for a renovation that will feature a new bar and large roll-up doors to create an indoor/outdoor space with communal seating.  Rene Ferandel is the architect for the project, with Catamount in charge of the construction, which includes the addition of a kitchen that will allow...
Curry Up Now picks first metro Atlanta locations and other dining news from the week
Curry Up Now picks first metro Atlanta locations and other dining news from the week

A popular San Francisco-based Indian chain has chosen its first metro Atlanta locations. Curry Up Now is slated to open at 1555 Church St. by the end of the year, with more locations to follow at Madison Yards on Memorial Drive in Reynoldstown and The Interlock on Howell Mill Road in West Midtown. Franchisee Hemant Suri, who recently sold Midtown Tavern...
Celebrate Oktoberfest with Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2018
Celebrate Oktoberfest with Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest 2018

Oktoberfest officially begins on Sept. 22 this year, with Atlanta’s Der Biergarten kicking off its downtown Atlanta celebration at noon on Saturday.  But there will be many more events later this month and into October all around Atlanta, including at Brick Store Pub, New Realm Brewing and Historic Old Fourth Ward Park. And in honor of the...
The Barrelhouse is opening in Old Fourth Ward Monday
The Barrelhouse is opening in Old Fourth Ward Monday

A bar formerly located in Midtown is set to make its debut in Old Fourth Ward next week. The Barrelhouse, which was located at 22 5th St. NW at Tech Square for seven years, is opening Monday in a space previously occupied by Cast Iron, which closed earlier this year. The 2,500 square-foot space will seat 104 guests total, with 68 seats in...
More Stories