Four countries have flagged food poisoning concerns in consignments of oysters this week.
France, Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom notified authorities and withdrew thousands of oysters from the market after they tested positive for norovirus.
Also called the winter vomiting bug, the virus is highly contagious and causes 685 million cases of acute gastroenteritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 200 million cases are among children under five years old, leading to an estimated 50,000 child deaths every year in developing countries.
Looking at the wider recall landscape in the food and drink sphere, there were 65 alerts on the RASFF portal in the last week (week 4). Fifty of these were deemed a serious risk to consumers.
One particularly interesting notification relates to a baby food brand which has recalled several of its product lines over tampering fears with one supermarket chain. While the tampering issue happened in the supermarket, both the baby brand and the retailer worked together to present a unified front.
The baby food brand shouldered the responsibility and managed the narrative so that it could protect its good name amongst its loyal customers. The reality is that people know recalls happen. They are inevitable.
Recalls provide an opportunity for companies to reconnect with their consumer base and build better loyalty - even advocacy. As damaging as a recall may be, it also presents a significant – yet mostly hidden – opportunity if correctly planned for and executed properly. And that is what these two companies did. They didn’t pass blame and got on with assuring their customers the brand was available and could be purchased with complete confidence elsewhere.
Unfortunately, some brands do not get this balance right. Instead of addressing the problem head on, they pass blame and even bury their heads in the sand. People buy from people and they need to be able to trust in a brand. And that means being truthful with the customer, even when the going isn’t so good.
We have several stress tests we run with companies to diagnose how recall ready they are. A common find is that heads of business view recall as a negative process. It doesn’t have to be. Many brands who have undergone a public recall process have gone on to improve sales because their recall communication was so honest.