September 18, 2014

Do You Have A Food Safety Communication Plan?

crisis planYou take great care to make sure that your products are safe for consumers but what happens if something goes wrong?  It’s a terrible thing to think about but if you had to issue a recall for your products, do you have a plan in place that would help you quickly notify everyone who may need to be contacted?

The sad truth is that all of us, no matter how much care we take with our ingredients and production process, do run the risk of selling contaminated food to consumers.  It’s happened before where stores who sell wholesome salads end up with a bad batch of spinach that ends up making their customers sick.  Or what happens if the peanut butter, flour, or meat  you use in your products gets recalled?  As in both of the above cases, even though it wasn’t your production process that created the contamination, there’s still a very real possibility that your products have been impacted in some way.

A Food Safety Communications Plan is a plan that you think through, and write down, in advance of a crises.  In it, you walk through the steps of who you would reach out to in order to maximize the news, what you would say, and how you would handle potential press inquiries around the subject.   As with any good plan, it is far better to think through these steps in advance rather than trying to do everything on the fly once you realize that there may be a problem.

Some pieces that you will want to consider with regards to your food safety communications plan:

  • How will you recall your products if a recall is necessary?
  • How will you inform your customers, vendors, press, investors, and/or partners as needed regarding the need to recall items?
  • What platforms will you or won’t you use to share this news – i.e., will you communicate through press releases, social media, email blast, etc.   You may find that you have different methods of contacting different groups of people based on the means they prefer to receive news by.
  • If you have employees, who is and who isn’t allowed to speak to the press or authorities about the recall?
  • What message will you share with those who call in?  As much as possible, prepare a script in advance so that it’s
  • What will you or won’t you include in statements to customers, vendors, partners, and press, etc. about the recall?
  • If you have employees, how will you communicate the issue to your employees in a timely manner?

The above is by no means meant to be a comprehensive outline of everything that should go into this crisis communication plan but a starting point to give you ideas as you think through the various flash points of your business.  Always remember that in an emergency, the quicker you can react (in an honest manner), the better chance you stand of keeping your customers loyal to your brand.  Having a plan in place is just one way to make sure that if the worst happens, you’re prepared and ready to act.

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