Food safety expert says climate change may drive food borne illness

Jul 18, 2023, 6:44 AM | Updated: 9:11 am

(Photo from KIRO 7)...

(Photo from KIRO 7)

(Photo from KIRO 7)

It’s that time of the year when the sun and barbeques reign supreme. But as temperatures rise, scientists are asking if climate change will increase cases of food-borne sicknesses.

According to Food Safety Expert & Attorney Bill Marler, the numbers tell some of the tale.

“There is a phenomenon both in Salmonella and in E. Coli where we usually see an uptick in the illnesses in late spring and early summer months,” says Marler.

As temperatures rise to historic levels around the planet, Marler says the correlation is something epidemiologists are very concerned about.

“We know that these bugs tend to be more active, sickening us in warmer months. But when we start to expand those months into spring and fall, it, you can see why it could be a bigger problem,” Marler explains.

Currently, Seattle’s public health experts are investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Berta, a specific and unusual strain of Salmonella. It’s sickened at least six people since April and no source has been identified.

“King County Department of Health has narrowed it down to pork and seafood. That’s obviously a lot of different products, but at least they’re moving in the direction of trying to isolate what the likely product is,” says Marler.

Marler says the statistics for figuring out sources of outbreaks are pretty bad. Only about 10-15% of illnesses are ever linked to a particular product. Salmonella sickens 1.4 million Americans every year with the most vulnerable being children and the elderly.

And, Marler would know, based in Seattle, he is a national authority on food safety. He has been holding America’s food giants accountable since the 1993 Jack in the Box E. Coli outbreak, which began in Seattle. He represented victims in the case that sickened more than 600 Washingtonians leading to 170 hospitalizations and 4 deaths.

Before that outbreak, it was absolutely legal to sell tainted meat. You could knowingly ship and sell E. Coli, contaminated meat. USDA said after that, no more,” explains Marler.

Since the Jack in the Box outbreak, he has filed suits against some of the biggest corporations in the world. He’s secured more than 850 million dollars for victims of food-borne illnesses.

Next month Netflix is releasing a documentary featuring Marler, “I think the public is going to be interested and probably a bit shocked at, you know, the status of our food system.”

‘Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food’ will drop on Netflix globally on August 2nd, 2023.

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Food safety expert says climate change may drive food borne illness