PR Lessons from a Multi-Billion Dollar Corporation Nestle Goes Part of the Way in Dealing with its E. coli O157:H7 Problem

 

Posted on June 30, 2009 by Bill Marler

From a Nestle press release from yesterday afternoon:

Nestle USA's Baking Division was informed today by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that it has found and confirmed evidence of E. coli 0 (sic its a O) 157:H7 in a retained production sample of 16.5 oz. Nestle Toll House refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough bar. The product has a day code of 9041 and a "Best before 10 JUN 2009" notation.

Nestle continues to work closely and in full cooperation with the FDA on the ongoing investigation. We are very concerned about those who have become ill from E. coli 0 (sic its a O) 157:H7, and deeply regret that this has occurred.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step.  Saying sorry is a start.

However, there is more to do.  According to the CDC, as of Thursday, June 25, 2009, 69 persons infected with E. coli O157:H7 with a particular DNA fingerprint have been reported from 29 states. That number is expected to rise over the next few days.  We have filed three lawsuits so far.  We have a baker's dozen other ready to go.

The number of ill persons so far identified in each state is: Arizona (2), California (3), Colorado (5), Connecticut (1), Delaware (1), Georgia (1), Iowa (2), Illinois (5), Kentucky (3), Massachusetts (4), Maryland (2), Maine (3), Minnesota (6), Missouri (1), Montana (1), North Carolina (2), New Hampshire (2), New Jersey (1), Nevada (2), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (1), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (1), Texas (3), Utah (2), Virginia (2), Washington (6), and Wisconsin (1).

Ill persons range in age from 2 to 65 years; however, 64% are less than 19 years old; 73% are female. Thirty-four persons have been hospitalized, and 9 developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

Here is the reality After 16 years of litigating every major E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, medical bills for these 69 (and counting) people may range from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars to date. Some have insurance but many do not. Many have spent weeks in the hospital caring for their sick child or spouse. Some have lost wages, some their jobs.

As I always tell companies - "It is a bad idea to poison your customers."  So, when is Nestle going to take the next step and offer to help its customers?

 

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