Food Safety News today begins its third year as a daily web-based news service.
The news service is the brainchild of nationally known food safety attorney Bill Marler, who has served as publisher. His Seattle-based law firm, Marler Clark, remains the site’s sole sponsor.
Marler, the nation’s best-known litigator on behalf of victims of foodborne illnesses, saw the need to fill a gap in food safety news created by shrinkage in the coverage of the subject by national, regional and local news media.
The first two years of publishing Food Safety News have coincided with some big food safety stories including:
- Yesterday’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that six additional serogroups of pathogenic E. coli will be declared adulterants in non-intact raw beef. Food Safety News published dozens of stories on these non-0157 E. coli that can cause severe infections and even death, but were not banned from meat.
- All congressional action in 2009-10 leading up to passage and President Obama signing the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 early last January. From its Washington D.C. bureau, Food Safety News tracked every move in this long and complex legislative story that ended with the most comprehensive reform in 60 years.
- Last year’s BP oil spill was considered a serious threat to the safety of America’s Gulf seafood industry, raising enough questions to cause Food Safety News to shift its reporting to the scene to seek out experts with the answers.
- As illnesses began mounting in this year’s outbreak of E. coli O104:H4 in Europe, we went to Germany to cover first hand an epidemic that caused more than 4,000 illnesses and nearly 50 deaths. With a staff spread across the country in Washington D.C., Denver, and Seattle, Food Safety News has not hesitated to go to where the story is, whether that’s been a lettuce field in Arizona or an egg production facility in Iowa.
In addition to beefing up its stable of writers and editors during the past year, Food Safety News has also revamped its homepage. The new look gives more space to the biggest food safety stories of the day and better features the contributions of guest writers.
Further down the page, some news feeds and blog boxes were replaced with a new “Hot Food Blogs” section. “Featured Editorials and Guest Opinion” is the newly titled area for contributed op-ed pieces. Food recalls now get their own section and a “Most Read On Food Safety News” section was added to keep some of the best stories around longer.
One of the reasons for making these improvements is to prepare for paid advertising. Food Safety News is turning some impressive readership numbers — figures that demonstrate the community of interest around food safety is quite large.
Marler says the growth in the number of subscribers, as well as daily and returning readers, is what has prompted him to pursue advertisers who want to reach the food safety audience and sponsors who want to support the news site’s mission.
“It is not only fair, but it is also a way to enhance Food Safety News,” he says. “I want it to continue to be a place where high quality, focused journalism can reside.”
In addition to working on that goal during the next year, Marler says Food Safety News will do more outreach to state and local food safety agencies. “We think many of the state and local leaders have stories to tell from the front lines, and we want them to know they are welcome to use Food Safety News to share their experiences.”
During the first two years, 4,482 articles published by Food Safety News brought in 6,345 reader comments, often involving spirited debates over a wide range of food-safety related issues.