Bill Marler
Bill Marler

Most publishers in the news biz have a background in advertising. I was lucky enough in the previous century to work for one who came up on the news side of the industry. He was just as concerned about revenue as publishers who came from the ad side, but he understood money didn’t motivate people in the newsroom.

Mike Hurd knew reporters, editors and photographers were motivated by curiosity, deadline, the public’s right to know and a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves. I never would have believed a hard news gal like me would ever be working for a lawyer/publisher who shared that insight.

This week my confidence in Bill Marler, publisher of Food Safety News and the Seattle attorney known simply as “the food safety lawyer,” is echoed by The Daily Meal with its seventh annual release of “America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food.” Marler is on the list for the sixth straight year.

Coming in at No. 40, Marler is ironically one slot ahead of David Murdock, the 93-year-old billionaire owner of Dole Food Co. Marler is representing victims of a deadly Listeria outbreak traced to No. 41’s bagged salads.

Marler has been on the other side of the table from several people on The Daily Meal’s list — or at least across the courtroom from the companies they work for — including Kroger Co. CEO and Chairman Rodney McMullen, No. 47; Nestle USA Chairman and CEO Paul Grimmwood, No. 37; Costco’s CEO Craig Jelinek, No. 32; Tyson Foods President and CEO Donnie Smith, No. 14; and Wal-Mart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran, No. 2.

Bill Marler testifying on FSMA
Bill Marler testified before Congress about the need for public protections in the Food Safety Modernization Act.

As an advocate for better food safety regulations and enforcement, Marler has also been on the same side of the table as others on the 2017 list of Top 50 food people, sometimes intentionally and sometimes because causes collide.

Such individuals include co-founder and president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Ingrid Newark at No. 48; former deputy administrator for the Food and Drug Administration, Mike Taylor at No. 4; and acting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse at No. 1.

The Daily Meal describes Marler this way:

“An accomplished personal injury and products liability attorney specializing in foodborne illness, Bill Marler has been litigating foodborne illness cases since 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously sickened survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak, creating a Washington State record for an individual personal injury action ($15.6 million). More than a lawyer, Marler has become an advocate for a safer food supply, petitioning the USDA to better regulate pathogenic E. coli, working with nonprofit food safety and foodborne illness victims’ organizations, and helping spur the passage of the 2010-2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. It would only make sense that Marler was front and center in the recent Chipotle foodborne illness fray, representing several victims of the outbreak.”

To earn his spot at No. 40 on the list this year, Marler was reviewed on the criteria used for all list nominees, as detailed by The Daily Meal:

  • the number of people directly reached;
  • the number of ways in which the candidate interacts with consumers;
  • the candidate’s past accomplishments and potential for future accomplishments; and
  • a proven ability to reach and influence people through his or her actions.

With individuals as diverse as media mogul Oprah Winfrey, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Pepsi Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi on the Top 50 list this year, the common threads connecting the dots for the editors of The Daily Meal may seem a bit tangled at first. But the publication’s description of the reach of those on the list pulls it all together.

“Some who have power in the food world have it literally — the power to make laws, disrupt the marketplace, control supply chains. Others exercise it in more subtle ways: They are the watchdogs, the inspirers, the facilitators,” according to The Daily Meal.

The publisher of Food Safety News definitely falls into the subtle category, though you likely wouldn’t describe him that way if you were sitting across the table from him in a courtroom.

beach-beatEditor’s note: The Daily Meal is an online publication covering foods and beverages, launched in 2011 by Spanfeller Media Group, which was founded by former CEO Jim Spanfeller. The website features nine channels  — Cook, Eat/Dine, Drink, Travel, Entertain, Best Recipes, Holidays, Lists and Community — and 24 city pages for Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Nashville, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Toronto, Twin Cities, Vancouver and Washington D.C.

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