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Food Safety News

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Publisher’s Platform: Lonely Being a Lawyer

Perhaps it was being at the memorial service (with 500 others) for a friend’s mother today that made me reflect on my own 53 years.  

Or perhaps it was being “un-linked” on LinkedIn a week ago by a federal regulatory official who worried that linking with me “might send the wrong message”–to whom, I am not quite sure.  

Or, perhaps it was the angst in the voice of a player in the beef industry today who wanted to invite me to speak at an industry convention to companies I have sued for a living.  

Or, perhaps it was being asked by the American Bar Association to speak at a food safety conference, only to be disinvited when the sponsor complained that I had filed a lawsuit against one of its divisions–14 years ago.

In nearly two decades of suing, mostly multi-million dollar companies that have poisoned little kids, I have made few friends. True, many of the companies I have sued, and at times bankrupted, honestly evoke little sympathy (at least from me).  However, my strong suspicion is that the CEOs who took shortcuts in food safety still get invited to attend conventions, and may well have many more mourners at their memorials.

Even esteemed “friends” in consumer advocacy, academia or public health are happy to solicit and take money from me, so long as they can mask my involvement–“for appearances, you understand.”

Someone with a smaller ego might feel wounded.

Someone without a sense of purpose might become sidetracked.

Fortunately, my ego is only slightly less secure than my sense of knowing why I do what I do. So, go ahead, “unlink” me, invite me or not, take the donation and use it well and pretend that the money fell from the sky.  It really is OK.

It is OK because I love what I do. I am honored to help those who have been stricken by food they thought was safe.  I am happy to restore some part of their life, or their child’s life, and to give them peace of mind that the future will be better. That is my primary mission.  

I am also proud of the time I’ve spent over the past 20 years, traveling the world explaining to industries I sue “why it is a bad idea to poison your customers,” or to do things right and “put me out of business, please.”

It is sometimes lonely being a lawyer.

© Food Safety News
  • Rob Jones

    What you do is crucial to our survival and I’m sure that others share my opinion that we read your publications with an eye to protecting ourselves and our loved ones from those that would live very well selling us harmful products.
    The way I see it, you couldn’t be in better company.

  • Thank you for standing up for what is right.

  • Chris Herrmann

    I was one of the unlucky ones who had consumed a glass of unpasteurized milk in a Chicago suburb, on a Friday, in March, 1985. I became part of the thousands that acquired the infamous Salmonella typhimurium. Twenty-five pounds of weight was lost in three days and I was to weak to get to a pharmacy. It took a phone call from my father, 900 miles east, to a fellow med-school physician friend in Chicago to visit me and provide Kaopectate with tincture of opium to get my gut and fluid loss under control. It took several weeks to get up to speed again.
    Last year, we lost an in-law who struggled for two years with complications from acquiring Vibrio from half-shell oysters in Florida while on a dinner date with his wife. In the beginning of his medical odyssey, my sister remarked “How could this happen at a four-star restaurant?” I told her that four stars does not indicate safe practices, only that the reviewer like the sauce. Although not a RS, everyday I am in situations where the owner points to a “sanitation” certificate on a wall and feels as though that is what food safety is and were it stops.
    As a thankful former FIU student of Dr. Anthony Marshall’s hospitality law classes it was ingrained in us that there can be a fine line between “reasonable care” and levels of negligence. Now, as a teacher, I have felt alone at times and I hope that the increased focus on safe food will create a bit of momentum for the subject.

  • Minkpuppy

    Being a food safety regulator is a lonely job as well but thanks to your hard work, my job is getting easier.
    The threat of a lawsuit looming over their heads is often an effective motivator for meat processors to get their acts together. There’s always the stubborn ones that never believe it will happen to them, but fortunately, these processors are slowly dwindling in numbers.
    I’ll link to you on LinkedIn anyday. 🙂

  • Susan

    What you do is more important than you realize. I am a former food safety regulator who was considered “too efficient” in my job and when on to teaching chemistry, etc.
    Now, I run a very small CSA, organic produce and egg business while considering law school to do some of what you do. I have grown kids but think it is time to put my toxicology education, public health regulatory education and experience to work along with my current job (which I love) to combine agricultural law, environmental and environmental health law plus health care law. You inspire me to follow my heart even though I am your age and starting to do what I have not done for years.
    Thanks