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Can Social Media Help Manage a Food Safety Crisis?

Posted by SugarCreek

Jun 20, 2014 8:00:00 AM

social_media_management_in_a_crisisIn the latest food safety news, Boulder Natural Meats in Colorado is recalling nearly 365 pounds of their boneless and skinless chicken breasts because of a branding error. According to the Department of Agriculture, the Colorado company failed to acknowledge the presence of wheat, a known allergen that could cause severe respiratory distress in those who are allergic, in packages of the Boulder-brand chicken, initiating a recall by the FDA.

In other news, anotherrecent recall saw 1.8 million pounds of ground beef produced by the Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit, Michigan pulled off the market for potential contamination from E.Coli, a bacteria strain known to cause bloody diarrhea, vomiting, kidney failure and rapid dehydration when ingested.

Although these particular recalls were fairly localized, the manufacturers responsible for sending mislabeled and/or contaminated meat to stores will face several penalties detrimental to their company's budget and reputation.

What, if anything, can meat-packing facilities do to counteract the bad publicity surrounding a recall of their product? How can a food manufacturing company educate the public and win back consumer trust when tainted meat is traced back to their operation?

What Happens to Food Manufacturers or Meat Packers When Their Products are Recalled?

Though still dangerous for certain consumers, the ramifications of a recall due to misbranding are not as serious as penalties incurred by meat packing plants that allowed contaminated meat to be bought and consumed.

While misbranding means that the food contains ingredients that were not made public by proper labeling procedures, it does not imply that everybody who eats the food will get sick. Alternately, a recall of meat due to contamination by bacteria or other harmful pathogens is serious, as it is almost certain that everyone eating the meat will suffer moderate to severe gastrointestinal symptoms.

Hefty fines and a shutdown of the facility until FDA inspectors find that it has complied with coding requests is frequently the result of a food recall instigated by contamination.

Can Social Media Help Restore Your Reputation and Public Trust?

According to a recent article about the power of social media published on Forbes, "all businesses need to monitor and respond to social chatter. When bad buzz occurs, identifying the source and nature of the buzz and developing a fast response is key to containing it. Daily social media monitoring is just common sense good practice. An organization’s success in the future depends on it."

When food safety news concerning a large recall is emblazoned on newspapers, cable news and online venues, the company involved faces the difficult task of not only complying with federal regulations and paying steep fines, but also of keeping their business afloat by assuring consumers that their products are still safe to eat.

Because millions of people access at least one social media site each day--whether it is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+--using these sites to help manage a food safety crisis is mandatory when it comes to reaching as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time.

Damage Control Begins with Providing Education.

Immediately following a recall, food manufacturers should issue an apology statement, take full responsibility for the recall and reassure consumers that all steps are being taken to provide them with the safest food products possible.

Posting educational materials on social media sites about food-borne diseases, why they occur and what measures are being taken to ensure it does not happen again are just a few actions food facilities can take to start restoring a good relationship with consumers and the stores that carry their product.

Never neglect to respond to consumers about recalls.

Any kind of negative food safety news will spread like wildfire, whether it concerns mislabeling errors or tainted foods, If you don't respond to the media storm on a platform that your consumers frequent, customers may begin to believe that you are deliberating trying to cover up an even graver mistake.

You need to have a social media plan in place before the worst happens so that you're able to handle the situation without adding more stress.

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Written by: SugarCreek

Sugar Creek prides itself on its authentic culinary expertise. With nearly 50 years in the food manufacturing business, we know what Americans want to eat.

Topics: Food Safety