The CDC Refuses to Reveal the Name of the Restaurant Chain That Poisoned More Than 60 Customers. Thank God for Scrappy Reporters
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) handling of a recent investigation into a salmonella outbreak that sickened 68 people in 10 states—sending more than 20 to the hospital—had all the elements of a B-grade spy movie. The CDC identified the source of the contaminated food, but refused to make the name public, instead calling it Restaurant Chain A, and saying only that it was a Mexican chain. It could have been any one of six such chains that operated in the affected states.
That seemed like odd behavior from an agency whose responsibility is to save lives, protect Americans, and save money through prevention. Although no one died in this outbreak, which came to light last fall, salmonella is frequently fatal, so outing the culprit could have saved lives. Revealing the identity of the mysterious Restaurant Chain A would have allowed customers to protect themselves by avoiding the place, if they chose. And a little negative publicity might have been just what was needed to convince those in charge of the company to clean up their act, perhaps preventing future outbreaks.
But the CDC kept the eatery’s identity under wraps.
This did not sit well with Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney whose firm specializes in litigating food-borne illness cases. Marler is nothing if not tenacious—just ask the dozens of food processers and fast-food outlets who have paid more than $600 million in claims to his clients in the past two decades