Two months after he called for increased efforts to prevent food poisoning in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), Seattle attorney William Marler today praised the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) announcement that it will require more stringent testing for "taking a bold first step to protect children from bacteria contamination in school lunches."

However, Marler added, "More must be done to protect those most vulnerable to E. coli O157:H7 and other deadly pathogens. I believe that the safety records of all meat production plants should be public so all parents know where their schools are getting the meat served to children."

"We know from recent USDA reports that about half the cattle in US feed lots carry the deadly E. coli bacteria and that most meat processed into ground beef patties may be tainted with tiny amounts of that bacteria. We also know that just a few bacteria can cause severe injury in school aged children. We therefore must do all we can to protect kids," said Marler.

The NSLP provided meals to 26.1 million children in 1998. More than 15 million low-income children receive free or reduced-price school lunches daily. Over 93,000 schools currently participate in the NSLP. The USDA spends over $200 million annually buying over 200 million pounds of meat through its commodities program.

Marler Clark has extensive experience representing victims of foodborne illness. Mr. Marler represented Brianne Kiner in her $15.6 million settlement with Jack in the Box. He also secured compensation totaling $30 million for other victims from the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak. In May 1998, Marler Clark settled the 1996 Odwalla Juice E. coli outbreak for the five families whose children were severely injured after consuming Odwalla apple juice. Marler Clark is currently lead counsel in class actions stemming from several Salmonella, Shigella, and Hepatitis outbreaks in Washington, California and Arizona. Marler Clark has litigated on behalf of children against KFC, McDonalds, Hardees, Carl's Jr. and Costco. Marler Clark is presently representing children in an E. coli outbreak stemming from contaminated beef served in a school lunch and others including an Atlanta, Georgia E. coli outbreak involving contaminated swimming pool water. Mr. Marler can be reached at 206/346-1888 or at www.marlerclark.com.