Fear the Fruit? Cantaloupe and Listeria in 2011

September 28, 2011

Cantaloupe is an ancient fruit with references dating back to ancient Egypt in  2600BC.  People are very familiar with the orange fruit.  It is a staple of summer along with watermelon.  But any food can become deadly if it is tainted in some way.  In 2011, a deadly listeria outbreak was caused by cantaloupe from Colorado.  It was a multistate outbreak with victims appearing in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. By late September of 2011, 16 deaths were associated with the outbreak making it one of the most outbreaks in over a decade

Listeria is not uncommon with over 1,600 cases in the U.S. each year and an average of three to four outbreaks.  Unfortunately, the death rate from listeria tends to be higher than for other food-borne bacteria.  Here is some additional information about listeria from the Cetners for Disease Control (CDC):

 

What is listeriosis?

Listeriosis, a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is an important public health problem in the United States. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems. However, rarely, persons without these risk factors can also be affected. The risk may be reduced by following a few simple recommendations.

What are the symptoms of listeriosis?

A person with listeriosis usually has fever and muscle aches, often preceded by diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost everyone who is diagnosed with listeriosis has “invasive” infection, in which the bacteria spread beyond the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms vary with the infected person:

  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women typically experience only a mild, flu-like illness. However, infections during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery, or life-threatening infection of the newborn.
  • Persons other than pregnant women: Symptoms, in addition to fever and muscle aches, can include headache, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, and convulsions.

How great is the risk for listeriosis?

In the United States, an estimated 1,600 persons become seriously ill with listeriosis each year. Of these, 260 die. The following groups are at increased risk:

  • Pregnant women: Pregnant women are about 20 times more likely than other healthy adults to get listeriosis. About one in six (17%) cases of listeriosis occurs during pregnancy.
  • Newborns: Newborns suffer the most serious effects of infection in pregnancy.
  • Persons with weakened immune systems from transplants or certain diseases, therapies, or medications.
  • Persons with cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, liver or kidney disease.
  • Persons with AIDS: They are almost 300 times more likely to get listeriosis than people with normal immune systems.
  • Older adults

Healthy children and adults occasionally get infected with Listeria, but they rarely become seriously ill.

 

With any food-borne illness, the CDC works closely with state and local health officials to identify the cause of an outbreak once one has been identified.  The research involves interviewing victims to determine what and where they have eaten and to test food once possible sources have been identified.  In this case, the source was linked to Jensen Farms and its field in Granada, Colorado.  Consumers were warned not to eat Rocky Ford cantaloupes from Jensen Farms.  Clearly this was a case of product harm and a recall was issued.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) posted the official government statement on the recall:

Jensen Farms Recalls Cantaloupe Due to Possible Health Risk

 

Contact:
Consumer
800-267-4561
recall@rfordcantaloupe.com

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 14, 2011 – Jensen Farms, of Holly, CO is voluntarily recalling their shipments of Rocky Ford whole cantaloupe because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria. The company is working with the State of Colorado and the FDA to inform consumers of this recall. L. monocytogenes is a bacterium that can contaminate foods and cause a mild non-invasive illness (called listerial gastroenteritis) or a severe, sometimes life-threatening, illness (called invasive listeriosis). Persons who have the greatest risk of experiencing listeriosis after consuming foods contaminated with L. monocytogenes are fetuses and neonates who are infected after the mother is exposed to L. monocytogenes during pregnancy, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems.

The whole cantaloupes in question were shipped between July 29th, 2011 and September 10th 2011, and distributed to the following states: IL, WY, TN, UT, TX, CO, MN, KS, NM, NC, MO, NE, OK, AZ, NJ, NY, PA. The whole cantaloupes have a green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords. If the whole cantaloupe is unlabeled, please contact your retail store for sourcing information. Jensen Farms is requesting any consumer that many have one of these cantaloupes to please destroy the products.

The recall involves only whole cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms, and no other commodities are involved. Jensen Farms feels it is prudent to participate in the recall as the State of Colorado has stated (in their September 12th, 2011 press release) that people at a high risk for infection should not eat whole cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford growing region.

“Jensen Farms continues to stay committed to the highest levels of food safety and maintains many third party safety audits, as we have for many years. We continually look for ways to enhance our protocol,” said Ryan Jensen, partner at Jensen Farms. Jensen Farms is a 3rd generation family farm of the Holly, Colorado community.

Consumers with questions may contact Jensen Farms via email at recall@rfordcantaloupe.com or phone 1-800-267-4561 between the hours of 9am and 4pm MST.

 

###

 The notice provided links to Flickr pictures of the recalled fruit.  Visuals make it easier for to identify if they have the recalled product. 

The product harm created a crisis for Jensen Farms.  Here is their announcement of the recall from their web site:

 

Company Statement

STATEMENT REGARDING 9/16/11 CANTALOUPE TEST RESULTS FROM COLORADO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENT “We are deeply saddened to learn that cantaloupes grown on our farm have been linked to the current Listeria outbreak. Our hearts go out to those individuals and their families who have been affected by this terrible situation. “We have been cooperating fully with public health officials who are trying to determine the source of the outbreak, and we will continue to do everything we can to assist them in their efforts. We hope that the investigation into the entire supply chain from farm to retail identifies the source of the contamination so that appropriate steps can be taken to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening again.”

Eric and Ryan Jensen
Jensen Farms

Press Release

Jensen Farms Recalls Cantaloupe Due to Possible Health Risk FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 14th, 2011-Jensen Farms, of Holly, CO is voluntarily recalling their shipments of Rocky Ford whole cantaloupe because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria. The company is working with the State of Colorado and the FDA to inform consumers of this recall. L. monocytogenes is a bacterium that can contaminate foods and cause a mild non-invasive illness (called listerial gastroenteritis) or a severe, sometimes life-threatening, illness (called invasive listeriosis). Persons who have the greatest risk of experiencing listeriosis after consuming foods contaminated with L. monocytogenes are fetuses and neonates who are infected after the mother is exposed to L. monocytogenes during pregnancy, the elderly, and persons with weakened immune systems. The whole cantaloupes in question were shipped between July 29th, 2011 and September 10th 2011, and distributed to the following states: IL, WY, TN, UT, TX, CO, MN, KS, NM, NC, MO, NE, OK, AZ, NJ, NY, PA. The whole cantaloupes have a green and white sticker that reads: Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford- Cantaloupe or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords. If the whole cantaloupe is unlabeled, please contact your retail store for sourcing information. Jensen Farms is requesting any consumer that may have one of these cantaloupes to please destroy the products. The recall involves only whole cantaloupe shipped by Jensen Farms, and no other commodities are involved. Jensen Farms feels it is prudent to participate in the recall as the State of Colorado has stated (in their September 12th, 2011 press release) that people at a high risk for infection should not eat whole cantaloupe from the Rocky Ford growing region. “Jensen Farms continues to stay committed to the highest levels of food safety and maintains many third party safety audits, as we have for many years. We continually look for ways to enhance our protocol,” said Ryan Jensen, partner at Jensen Farms. Jensen Farms is a 3rd generation family farm of the Holly, Colorado community. Consumers with questions may contact Jensen Farms via email at recall@rfordcantaloupe.com or phone 1-800-267-4561 between the hours of 9am and 4pm MST.

The recall information could be found using a link placed in the bottom right corner of the Jensen Farms home page.  The information was clearly visible in the “Farm Blog” tab and easy to access.  Jensen Farms has a Facebook page with a little over 200 fans/likes.  They posted a statement there are well and their supports rallied around the company.  Below is the Facebook post and some responses:

Many Thanks to those with continued support of Jensen Farms

We want to reach out an thank everyone for supporting us through this terrible time in the history of our beloved farm. Your messages and wall posts are helping us stay motivated, and optimistic about our future. Thank you…

Responses:

We are very sorry to hear about your time of trial our family will lift up you, your family and the others affected by this trial. God Bless and keep trusting.

I feel the store may have been the issue..I hope and pray your farm is clean so you can continue to share good food with us all….But Please do us all a favor…edcuate everyone as you learn…..the truth:) We are all with you and with the families that are ill…we are just a small farm , we grow organics for ourself but need farms like you to supply what we dont grow for ourself….Our trust is in the truth….best wishes to your family and the families of the ill to get to the bottom of this , to learn and grow

Love you guys and hope everything gets cleared up soon!!!

Praying for you and your family. I will continue to purchase our produce direct from the Arkansas Valley. Hope the consumers will learn how important it is to wash their produce no matter what. Don’t ever loose the faith, God Bless.

I am praying for your family/farm, and will continue to buy your produce!

I cant even imagine but you have mine and my families support..click on me if you need any help, I’ll try and do what ever I can…Im really ticked that this happened weather it was planted or just a freak of nature. Im even more ticked that someone is wanting to be greedy and gain from this mess..But you do have my support, just ask…thats what people do they come together and help

It really could have happened to anyone, so my best hope is that people understand this and don’t let it stop them from buying your produce in the future. Best of luck!

I’m so sorry this has happened and you will always have my support!

Praying for you guys! This is just heart breaking and if there is anything we can do to help just let us know! I love cantaloupe, it’s my favorite. Everyone needs to make sure they wash their produce before it is consumed.

 

With people becoming ill and dying, a lawsuit was quick to follow the crisis.   Charles Palmer, 71 years-old, was hospitalized for two weeks from the listeria in the cantaloupe he ate.  Here are the Jensen Farm comments in the story about the lawsuit:

“We’re deeply saddened that there’s a possibility that our family’s cantaloupe could have gotten somebody sick,” Jensen Farms owner Eric Jensen told 7NEWS Thursday. “Our first priority is the public’s health and safety.”  Jensen’s fourth-generation family farm in Holly, normally busy with harvest now, was ghostly quiet after the suspected listeria contamination forced Jensen to shut down Monday and destroy his cantaloupe crops.

 

The grower launched a voluntary nationwide recall on Wednesday.

Jensen said the farm had never faced a public health crisis and he’d never heard of listeria contaminating cantaloupe.  “We’re still in shock,” Jensen said, choking with emotion. “We’re completely focused on our recall efforts right now.”  Jensen said he had no clue about the source of the contamination, adding that it could still be found “on the retail end.”  While a terrible setback, Jensen said that the listeria outbreak wouldn’t claim his farm.

“We’ll definitely be back,” Jensen vowed.

 

Crises with victims typically are extended in time and cost by lawsuits.  Victims sue the organization causing longer attention from the media and increased costs from the litigation and any settlements resulting from the litigation. 

Questions to Consider

1.  How would you rate the crisis response from Jensen Farms and what factors influenced that rating?

2.  How does the government’s involved in a crisis response help or hurt the organization trying to management the crisis?

3.  How did the Jensen Farm recall statement differ from the FDA’s and why would there be a difference?

4.  Was it a good or bad idea for Jensen Farms to post a message of Facebook?  What is the reasoning behind your conclusion?

5.  In general, how might the supportive statements on Facebook help Jensen Farms through this crisis?

6.  Is there any way Jensen Farms might effectively incorporate the supportive Facebook comments into their later crisis response strategies?

7.  What advice would you give to Jensen Farms about recovering from the crisis at this point?

 


Toyota Recall: Hit or Miss?

January 31, 2010

Without reading or watching any coverage of the Toyota recall, you can bet the critics will say Toyota reacted too slowly in the recall.  That is a safe criticism to make.  Hindsight is 20/20 so it is easy to argue Toyota should have recognized the signs sooner and acted sooner.  Sometimes the default speed criticism is valid, sometimes it is unfair.  Keep in mind that managers are evaluating a number of variables simultaneously including financial concerns.  Besides, the speed of the reaction is relative.  What we should be more interested in is what was communicated through words and actions.  Speed is a secondary concern as long as it was not so slow that it placed people at undue risk because the organize had a very good idea of what the problem was.

A quick recap is of the recall is warranted here.  The problem was that accelerator pedals were sticking or returning to their normal position.  Drivers are worried when cars accelerate on their own—unintended acceleration.  The problem was found in a variety of Toyota vehicles in the U.S. and China.  The cars manufactured and sold in Japan did not have any problems.  The initial diagnosis was that improper installation of floor mats was to blame for the problem.  A message went out customers about the floor mats on Nov. 2, 2009 in relation to the Sept. 29th recall.  On Jan. 21, 2010 another recall notice was delivered about the accelerator pedal itself followed by a suspension of selling the vehicles in doubt on Jan. 28, 2010.  It seemed both the floor mats and the pedal design were both to blame http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/toyota/toyota-consumer-safety-advisory-102572.aspx.  The bigger issue is whether or not Toyota knew of the problem since 2007 and that the problem went beyond the floor mats and pedal design to its drive-by-wire technology (latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-toyota5-2009dec05,0,1844374.story). The LA Times news story does seem to accuse Toyota of ignoring the problem for over two years.  Toyota disagrees:

“Today the Los Angeles Times published an article that wrongly and unfairly attacks Toyota’s integrity and reputation.

While outraged by the Times’ attack, we were not totally surprised. The tone of the article was foreshadowed by the phrasing of a lengthy list of detailed questions that the Times emailed to us recently. The questions were couched in accusatory terms.  

Despite the tone, we answered each of the many questions and sent them to the Times. Needless to say, we were disappointed by the article that appeared today, and in particular by the fact that so little of our response to the questions appeared in the article and much of what was used was distorted.

Toyota has a well-earned reputation for integrity and we will vigorously defend it.” http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/our-point-of-view-post.aspx?id=2378

Here is a link to the exchange of questions and answers between the LA Times and Toyota:  http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/document/LA_Times_questions_and_Toyota_answers.pdf

Records show the NTSB has investigated eight acceleration problems with Toyota’s since 2003.  Six of the investigations were closed with no action taken while two did involve small recalls related to floor mats http://archives.chicagotribune.com/2009/nov/26/business/chi-tc-biz-toyota-1125-1126-nov26. We should return to the point that the recalls affect cars outside of Japan including China, the U.S., and Europe.  The accelerator pedal has a different supplier in Japan.  Here is where Toyota makes some interesting communicative choices.  Toyota has the chance to scapegoat the supplier but provides this statement about the supplier:

“Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America (TEMA) has been working closely with supplier CTS on a revised design that effectively remedies the problem associated with accelerator pedals. Pedals featuring the revised design are now in full production at CTS to support Toyota’s needs. Meanwhile, we are also working with them to test effective modifications to existing pedals in the field that will be rolled out as quickly as possible.

“We commend CTS for working diligently and collaboratively to find a solution to the potential problem and in developing a new design,” said Chris Nielsen, TEMA’s Vice President of Purchasing. “CTS is a long-term and valued supplier to us.”

http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/manufacturing/statement-from-toyota-on-supplier-153203.aspx

Toyota stands with the supplier rather offering them as the cause.  This statement shows Toyota’s willingness to take responsibility for any problems found in their vehicles even in the face of its largest recall involving millions of vehicles.  CTS made its own case saying the design they followed was from Toyota and that they are being unfairly linked to the recall.  Here are some CTS comments:

“”We are disappointed that, despite these facts, CTS accelerator pedals have been frequently associated with the sudden unintended acceleration problems and incidents in various media reports,’ said Dennis Thornton, CTS Vice President and General Manager of Automotive Products Group. Toyota itself has also publicly stated that this recall is separate from the earlier recalls which were done to remedy sudden acceleration in vehicles.” http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2010/01/29/463816.html.  CTS is having to address its own reputation issues but Toyota is not the one pointing fingers or implying responsibility.

In addition, Toyota took the unusual stand to suspend the sale of new vehicles:

“Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., today announced that it is instructing Toyota dealers to temporarily suspend sales of eight models involved in the recall for sticking accelerator pedal, announced on January 21, 2010.
 
“Helping ensure the safety of our customers and restoring confidence in Toyota are very important to our company,” said Group Vice President and Toyota Division General Manager Bob Carter. “This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized. We’re making every effort to address this situation for our customers as quickly as possible.”
 
Toyota announced it would recall approximately 2.3 million vehicles to correct sticking accelerator pedals on specific Toyota Division models. Toyota has investigated isolated reports of sticking accelerator pedal mechanisms in certain vehicles without the presence of floor mats. There is a possibility that certain accelerator pedal mechanisms may, in rare instances, mechanically stick in a partially depressed position or return slowly to the idle position.” http://pressroom.toyota.com/pr/tms/toyota/toyota-temporarily-suspends-sales-153126.aspx

Toyota had already recalled over million vehicles for the floor mat issue.  Toyota was willing to recall and suspend sales, both are corrective actions designed to reassure customers the vehicles would be safe once the recall changes were made.  Toyota’s President, Akio Toyoda apologized to customers:

“’We’re extremely sorry to have made customers feel uneasy,’ Akio Toyoda told public broadcaster NHK on the sidelines of the Davos forum in Switzerland, in his first public remarks on the recall since it went global this week.

‘Right now, we are trying to establish the facts and preparing for giving an explanation so anxiety among customers would be removed as soon as possible’” http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100130/bs_afp/japanautocompanyrecalltoyota_20100130082516

Toyota’s words and actions indicate a strong concern for customers and a willingness to protect its reputation.  Still, if the problem really was known in 2007 and goes beyond what has been disclosed, a serious problem still remains.  However, at this point the facts do not support the charges of a cover up of an even larger problem.  That is the dilemma in product recalls.  When is a problem isolated and when is it systemic?  There are no clear rules for answer that question.

Questions to Consider

  1.  How would you evaluate Toyota’s communicative response to the acceleration crisis?
  2. Why might it be fair to criticize Toyota for being slow?  Why might it be unfair?
  3. Why do you think Toyota directly addressed the LA Times story?
  4. Who seems more credible in the exchange, the LA Times or Toyota and why does that matter?
  5. What role does being slow to respond play in shaping stakeholder perceptions of an organization in crisis?
  6. How does this case illustrate the connections between reputation management and crisis communication?
  7. How would you rate the ethics of Toyota’s crisis communication given the facts reported in the case thus far?

Toys”R”Us uses Cash to help Find Dangerous Infant Products

August 30, 2009

Each year there are hundreds of product recalls in the US.  Examples include beef for e coli, laptops for battery fire hazard, chainsaws with missing guards, and cookies with nuts missing from the ingredient list.  The product recalls are a result of product harm—the product can hurt the consumers in some way.   The recall is designed to separate the product harm from the customer.  People return the product and it removes the risk.  The problems could be a result of a defect, a missing part, or an undeclared food allergen.  Infant furniture is common product that is recalled because the furniture can harm the child in some ways.  The furniture in question can include beds and chairs. 

So why highlight infant furniture?  One reason is the risk posed to helpless infants.  Another reason is the difficulty in recalling infant furniture.  Kids in Danger (http://www.kidsindanger.org/)  report that only around 30% of infant products are returned.  That means 70% stay in use and remain a threat to infants.  The risk is compounded by the secondary market for infant furniture.  People often sell their infant furniture at garage sales or online or simply give it to other people.   (It should be noted eBay has a policy against selling recalled products). The people buying the product on the secondary market probably have no idea of the product had been recalled.  In all likelihood the seller did not know that either.  Manufacturers are required to send news releases to media outlets about recalls.  The media may or may not use the information.  Recall information can be found at various web sites such as www.recalls.gov  and www.cspc.gov.   Moreover, most companies involved with infant merchandise place the recall information on their web sites.  But consumers have to actively look for that information.   It is easy to miss that a product you own has been recalled.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

“‘The meager returns have spurred initiatives aimed at getting harmful products out of the public’s hands, including a Consumer Product Safety Commission e-mail program that notifies consumers about recalls.

Still, too often consumers never hear about a recall or “put it on their to-do list and never respond,’ said Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the safety commission.

Last week, for instance, the agency reissued an August 2008 recall of about 900,000 Simplicity bassinets because two infants had died after becoming trapped between the product’s bars or in a pocket of fabric; the initial recall was prompted by the deaths of two other children.

‘We have said for decades at this agency that we do a very good job of getting dangerous and recalled products off of store shelves,’ Wolfson said. ‘Our greatest challenge is always getting those products out of people’s homes and out of circulation.’” http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toys-trade26-2009aug26,0,1722342.story

 

Toys “R” Us has announced a unique program for removing potentially dangerous infant product from the marketplace. 

WAYNE, NJ (August 26, 2009) – Toys”R”Us, Inc. today unveiled a national program that provides customers the opportunity to trade-in used cribs, car seats and other baby products in exchange for savings on a new item. The ‘Great Trade-In’ event is designed to call attention to the fact that, due to safety concerns, certain used baby products, such as car seats and cribs, are not the best candidates to be handed down or resold.

Safety experts have recently reported that sales of used products are on the rise and are warning consumers to be cautious about purchasing second-hand children’s items. The ‘Great Trade-In’ event places an emphasis on specific old or second-hand baby products that may be potentially unsafe, but are still in circulation.
During the “Great Trade-In” event, which begins Friday, August 28 and continues through Sunday, September 20, all Babies”R”Us and Toys”R”Us locations nationwide will accept returns of any used cribs, car seats, bassinets, strollers, travel systems, play yards and high chairs in exchange for a 20% savings on the purchase of any new baby item, in any of these product categories, from select manufacturers.” http://www4.toysrus.com/Investor/pr/082609.html

The Toys “R” Us action is a proactive attempt to deal with the problem of recalled infant products remaining in circulation and being resold or given to others.  It will be interesting to see the level of response and what percentage of the exchanged merchandise had been on recall lists.  The actions by Toys “R” Us are supported by the CPSC and Kids in Danger.

 

Questions to Consider

  1.  How can this action be used to bolster the CSR for Toys “R” Us?
  2. How might this action help if/when Toys “R” Us has a crisis?
  3. Why is it important that other groups support the “Great Trade-in” event?
  4. What else could be done to help create awareness and action on recalled products?
  5. How would you evaluate the success of the Great Trade-in” event?
  6. What makes the Great Trade-in” event any different other efforts to make people aware of recalled products?

Hand-Desanitizer: Irony for Clarcon

August 10, 2009

A product becomes ironic when it does the opposite of what it should do.  Imagine a laundry detergent that made clothes dirty.  Such was the case for Clarcon Biological Chemistry Laboratory Inc. of Roy, Utah.  In June of 2009,  its hand sanitizer was found to contaminated and to cause infections.  An FDA inspection lead to the voluntary recall.  It should be noted almost all US recalls are voluntary as the US government allows the company to save face/reputation.  The FDA told consumers to just thrown the product out.  Here the specific concern from the FDA news release:

” Analyses of several samples of over-the-counter topical antimicrobial skin sanitizer and hand protectant products revealed high levels of various bacteria, including some associated with unsanitary conditions.

Some of these bacteria can cause opportunistic infections of the skin and underlying tissues. Such infections may need medical or surgical attention, and may result in permanent damage.

FDA finds the inspection results particularly concerning because the products are promoted as antimicrobial agents that claim to treat open wounds, damaged skin, and protect against various infectious diseases.

The inspection uncovered serious deviations from FDA’s requirements.

Consumers should not use any Clarcon products. Examples of these products include

• Citrushield Lotion

• Dermasentials DermaBarrier

• Dermassentials by Clarcon Antimicrobial Hand Sanitizer

• Iron Fist Barrier Hand Treatment

• Skin Shield Restaurant

• Skin Shield Industrial

• Skin Shield Beauty Salon Lotion

• Total Skin Care Beauty

• Total Skin Care Work”

 http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm164845.htm

In August of 2009, the FDA instructed the US Marshalls to seize all hand sanitizer at Clarcon’s Roy, Utah facility.  Marshalls seizing a product is an unusual move.  Here is part of the FDA statement after the raid:

“’The FDA is committed to taking enforcement action against firms that do not manufacture drugs in accordance with our current good manufacturing practice requirements,”’said Deborah M. Autor, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance. ‘We will remain vigilant in our efforts to protect consumers from defective products.’” http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm174940.htm

As you can imagine, this was a perfect news story.  One news value is oddity (Chapter 6 Media Relations) and this is an oddity.  Rarely has the term irony been used so appropriately.  Here is a typical segment form a news story about the recall:

“The FDA said its findings, following a recent inspection of the Clarcon facility, are particularly concerning because the products are promoted as antimicrobial agents that claim to treat open wounds and damaged skin and protect against various infectious diseases. The inspection uncovered serious deviations from FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice requirements, the agency said.

Calls to Clarcon for comment Monday night were not answered.”

http://www.wcpo.com/news/local/story/FDA-Warns-Of-Major-Hand-Sanitizer-Recall/74OKJrWbeE-k49FW2QpMFg.cspx

The online media enjoyed the recall as Clarcon was the subject of blogs and tweets.

 Sample tweet:  “drlawmom: @bretta75 Did you read that all hand sanitizer from CLARCON has been recalled due to dangerous bacteria.”

Sample post (from a registered nurse): “Clarcon claims to use strict quality control measures in their manufacturing process. In this instance, consumers are warned to discard the products, and do not use them under any circumstances because of risk of serious infection and complications that could cause permanent damage.” http://www.emaxhealth.com/1020/66/32602/fda-clarcon-products-linked-unsanitary-conditions.html
Ideally this case would include material from Clarcon but there is hardly any comment by the company and their web site has down through August of 2009.

Questions to Consider:

  1.  In addition to oddity, what other factors make the Clarcon story newsworthy (Chapter 5)?
  2. From the short news story segment in the case, who seemed to be framing the event and what evidence supports that conclusion?
  3. What effect might the online comments have had on the case?
  4. If we treat this case a crisis, what communication recommendations would you have had for Clarcon and what is the rationale behind each recommendation (Chapter 12)?
  5. If you were to rate the reputation threat of this crisis on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the greatest threat, what score would you give it an why?
  6. How might the online environment been used to protect Clarcon’s reputation during the crisis (Chapter 7)?

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