Logo for Campfire Film & TV Production Company
Entitled “Poisoned,” the film will be directed by Stephanie Soechtig and executive produced by Jeff Benedict and produced by Ross Dinerstein’s Campfire. It will be based on Benedict’s book, “Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat.”
“‘Poisoned’ began with my interest in writing about the Jack in the Box E. coli infections in 1993 that sickened over 750 children, four of whom died,” said Benedict in a statement. “But once I entered that world, it became clear the story was much bigger than one outbreak. It’s the same broken system behind each of these horrific events, and while we’ve become more vigilant about what we eat, the issues plaguing the industry rage on.”
Soechtig’s banner Atlas Films will work on the project. Soechtig and Atlas Films’ Kristin Lazure will produce the film. Campfire’s Ross Girard and Rebecca Evans are also executive producers.
The film will examine consumers’ misguided faith in the modern American food supply system and the presumption that the food we purchase is “safe.” In reality, foodborne illness is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, with an estimated 48 million Americans suffering a foodborne illness, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.
“The food industry is so incredibly vast, flawed and full of deceit, yet crucial to the well-being of our society,” said Soechtig. “For a filmmaker, there aren’t many topics as universal, timeless and critical, and yet there are still so many stones left unturned. ‘Poisoned’ will dive into a whole new realm of baffling statistics, harmful presumptions, criminal acts and coverups. There’s a lot to feed audiences.”
Soechtig previously directed “Tapped,” “Fed Up” and “The Devil We Know.” Benedict, a best-selling author and journalist, produced the HBO docu-series “Tiger,” which is based on a biography he co-wrote with Armen Keteyian. Dinerstein produced “Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults” and “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.”
The documentary will reveal the twisted history of America’s food supply system, along with the stories of victims of notorious outbreaks and the criminal prosecutions that often resulted from the contaminations. It will follow the way food is distributed, as well as the bureaucratic red tape and collusion among lobbyists and lawmakers that works against addressing safety concerns. The filmmakers promise that the film will investigate, “How did we get to a place with 15 government agencies in charge of the country’s food, yet none of them can keep its citizens safe?”
There’s a bit of an irony at the heart of the project given Dinerstein’s best-known works.
“Jeff’s non-fiction work can be haunting and evoke shock, rage and humor; this film captures all of that, plus a slight risk of making you sick to your stomach,” added Dinerstein. “This is an important story that we needed to tell – even if my IMDB page will now list a sushi doc alongside a film about foodborne illness.”
Variety's Brett Lang contributed to this post.