Lawyers discuss legal and financial aspects of food safety

Lawyers discuss legal and financial aspects of food safety
Shawn Stevens and Bill Marler
Shawn Stevens, left, and Bill Marler discuss food safety culture. Photo by Jonan Pilet

COLUMBUS, OH — Tuesday, lawyers Bill Marler and Shawn Stevens discussed the legal and financial risks of food safety hazards at the Food Safety Tech’s Hazards Conference Series.

Marler, an attorney, and national food safety expert, has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies through his firm, Marler Clark. Stevens, a nationally recognized food attorney and founding member of the Food Industry Council, joined Marler to discuss their careers and the state of food safety today and in the future.

The two lawyers pointed to the Jack-in-the-Box incident as the beginning of foodborne litigation. Since then, companies and lawyers have worked together to improve food safety and prevent problems. Stevens emphasized that leadership’s commitment to doing things for the right reasons is the most crucial factor in creating a food safety culture. He suggested embracing the three ‘C’s: compassion, commitment, and communication.

Marler compared food safety culture to companies paying attention to things before they blow up in their faces. He explained that the companies that avoid lawsuits are those that put food safety first and pay attention to what most people ignore. The two lawyers also discussed how whole-genome sequencing (WGS) testing is making a significant impact on pushing companies to do better.

The 2006 spinach outbreak and the issue of environmental contamination were also discussed. Stevens advised businesses to meet their suppliers, especially high-risk suppliers. 

Lastly, Marler advised students entering the food safety field to embrace a proactive lifestyle by finding their passion and leaning into it.

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