Bill Marler, the founder and publisher of Food Safety News, prominent food safety advocate, and America’s best-known foodborne illnesses attorney arrives in South Africa today to help push back against the largest Listeria outbreak in history.

Marler will speak Thursday at the Food Focus Listeria Conference in Johannesburg, where South African professionals from government, industry and academia will be strategizing about how to combat Listeria.

South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, Sunday announced that two brands of ready-to-eat meat known as “polony” are responsible for the outbreak that’s infected 948 people and caused 180 deaths.

Marler will address the conference on overall lessons about food safety learned during the past 25 years, and more specifically on America’s deadly Listeria outbreak in 2011, which was caused by contaminated cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in southeast Colorado.

The first of Marler’s two presentations in Johannesburg is entitled: “25 years after Jack-in-the-Box from a lawyer’s perspective.” He is managing partner of Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, based in Seattle. It is the only law firm in the country with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.

Marler became involved in representing victims of foodborne illness as a result of the historic E. coli O157: H7 outbreak linked to Jack-in-the-Box, where he saw victims awarded more than $100 million in settlements.

In the 2011 Listeria outbreak, Marler represented 45 victims, including the families of 28 people who died. He secured nearly $25 million in compensations for his clients.

Marler has seen the Listeria pathogen linked to a variety of foods, including cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

The title for Marler’s Listeria talk is “The ‘Rocky Ford’ Listeria Cantaloupe Outbreak-Listeria from a Patient’s Perspective.” The Food Focus conference is at the Premier Hotel OR Tambo in Johannesburg. Scheduled presentations include:

• Preventing Listeria in processed meats
• Listeria and fresh produce
• What have we learned about Listeria in dairy? (root cause analysis case study)
• Listeria prevention masterclass
• Top 10 tips – Effective facility design and the role of maintenance
• Cleaning and sanitation regimes in the food industry – are we doing enough to prevent?
• CFA – advice to industry – the importance of hygiene zones
• How to effectively audit Listeria programs
• Testing overhaul
• Recall and liability issues
• The cause – food safety culture?
• Bill Marler – insight from 25 years of food poisoning experience

Food Focus organizes the conference. It is based in Johannesburg and Paris and was founded by Linda Jackson and Adele Krogh, bringing their many years of food industry expertise into a consolidated platform to benefit the industry.

While in South Africa, Marler expects to meet with victims, health officials and the media.

Editor’s note: This is the second time Food Safety News has gone overseas to cover a world record-setting outbreak of foodborne illness. We sent a staff writer to Hamburg, Germany, in 2011 at the height of E. coli O104:H4 outbreak. That involved more than 4,000 illness and 50 deaths in 16 countries.

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