Photo of Denis Stearns

Denis Stearns, is of-counsel at Marler Clark, earned a BA in philosophy from Seattle University, and his law degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He graduated from both schools with high honors, and won numerous awards for service and academic excellence. Prior to being a partner at Marler Clark, Denis worked as one of the lead attorneys on the defense team that represented Jack in the Box against the hundreds of claims and lawsuits arising from the historic 1993 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. In this role, he obtained extensive knowledge of the meat and foodservice industry, health and safety regulations, HACCP and other food safety systems, epidemiology, and foodborne illness. He is a frequent speaker and writer on issues related to food safety law, administrative regulation, and public health policy.

Back in the day, when I was studying for my degree in philosophy, during my senior year I was required to take a 400-level seminar on Plato and Aristotle, which, in large part, consisted of reading large amounts of both philosophers’ work, and then discussing the work in class.  We also had to author a …

The tragedy of the huge and ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is the source of much controversy, multiple competing narratives, and unashamed finger-pointing by nearly all involved. And as with all such tragedies it seems, there were immediate calls for a crackdown, which is to say, stricter enforcement, stricter regulations, and any…

“She had no way of knowing it, but that plain country woman, whose name I have long forgotten, taught me one of the most important lessons of my life: food could be much more than mere sustenance.”  –Jacques Pépin[1]

I do not recall exactly what prompted me to ponder the resurgence of interest in small-scale

There is much to be said for tradition, especially as it relates to food.  When my mother was alive, her tradition at Christmas was to make twice-baked potatoes, which she prepared the day ahead and set in the garage to await baking at the appointed time.  It was not particularly cold in the garage, and …

For decades, the meat industry has insisted that pathogens like E. coli O157:H7 are inherent to raw meat, that there is no way for the manufacturing process to eliminate the possible presence of pathogens, and that, as a result, consumers bear ultimate responsibility for making meat safe to eat by cooking it sufficiently to kill …

E. coli O157:H7 and Mechanically Tenderized Steaks

By now, most people have come to understand that a lot of industrially produced, mass-manufactured ground beef sold in the United States can be deadly.  One need only look at the recent reminder provided by the tragic story of Stephanie Smith, and the Cargill-manufactured ground beef patty that…

A lawsuit was filed on December 4, 2009, against Cargill seeking at least $100 million to compensate Stephanie Smith for the tragic, life-changing injuries that she suffered as a result of eating a hamburger patty contaminated with deadly E. coli O157:H7 bacteria.  The hamburger patty–part of a box of premade, frozen patties sold by Walmart …

On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, I made a presentation at the Fourth International Conference on Food Safety and Quality.  The presentation was one of two keynote speeches given that morning, which kicked off this two-day conference.  The topic of this year’s conference was Global Food Safety.  Marler Clark was one of the sponsors of the…

More Meat Industry Dissembling on E. coli

On October 3, 2009, the New York Times published a lengthy and compelling story about Stephanie Smith and the E. coli O157:H7 infection, and resulting permanent injuries, that she suffered as a result of eating a tainted hamburger patty–specifically, one from a box of  “American Chef’s Selection Angus…

Rebutting Michele Bachmann on the 2009 Food Safety Modernization Act.

Twenty years ago, when I was in college and studying for a BA in Philosophy, one of the courses required for my major was Logic.  I do not really recall that I enjoyed the subject all that much, especially learning Aristotelian truth tables (see, e.g.…