Mark Bittman---longtime New York Times food columnist-turned-food-politics-writer and author of the bestselling cookbook How to Cook Everything---talked to Seattle attorney Bill Marler about the recent E. coli outbreak, which Marler calls the worst E.coli outbreak he's ever seen. (Marler is best known for prosecuting the infamous 1993 Seattle Jack in the Box E.coli case, in which a nine-year-old girl nearly died, and dozens of others were infected, with E.coli from contaminated burgers). Bittman credits Marler with raising awareness of the risk of E.coli contamination and getting US regulatory agencies to pay attention to the issue.

Marler, Bittman writes,
has an amazing sense of humor, especially given that half our communication was at 5 a.m. Eastern time/2 a.m. Pacific time (he lives outside Seattle). I asked him whether we are safer eating at home than out. This is a difficult question to answer given how many cases of E. coli (and salmonella, and all the rest) go unreported unless they’re part of an outbreak. My instincts tell me it’s safer to eat at home, but I asked not only Bill but a few other experts this question, and no one could really be definitive. The closest I got was this e-mail from Marler, which may not be authoritative, but is certainly sensible (and cute!):

“Eat simply, locally, things that you wash well, cook well and process yourself. Wash your hands and keep your kitchen clean — especially the dish rag. Keep cold things cold and hot things hot. Keep meat and unwashed vegetables away from ready to eat food. Have a glass of good red wine.

“Think about eating mass-produced raw meat and produce like you are swimming in a pool with a thousand people you don’t know. Think of eating as described above as sitting in a bath with your significant other — hopefully less risky and much more fun.”

Much, much more at Bittman's NYT blog here.