Imagine your business being closed and your product being withdrawn after causing 10 illnesses over five years, with all victims hospitalised, and three deaths.
This was the situation for Blue Bell Creameries in the US in 2015 following a listeria outbreak. The outbreak was complex as the 10 illnesses occurred over four states and spanned 2010 to 2015.
In addition to withdrawing their products from 23 states in 2015, Blue Bell shut down its production facilities in Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas, “depriving its customers of what many consider to be the nation’s best ice cream” (according to Food Safety News).
It’s reported the company was aware of Listeria in its plants in 2013 but did not test the bacteria to discover if it was pathogenic or take measures to eradicate the problem. And investigations found Blue Bell was making people sick as early as 2010.
“The episode reveals not only how difficult it is to trace the source of food-borne illness but also what happens when a company is slow to recognise and tackle the causes, and then doesn’t come clean with its customers,” said Geoff Raven, Dairysafe CEO.
How bad was it? Blue Bell’s plants and practices required a massive and expensive overhaul. Blue Bell sacked 1,450 of its 3,900 employees and gave extended leave to 1,400 more. Only a $125 million loan from billionaire Sid Bass kept it from going under, according to the Wall Street Journal.
To read more about the outbreak, see the article links below:
- Blue Bell listeria recall: http://fortune.com/2015/09/25/blue-bell-listeria-recall/
- Blue Bell reports on root causes of five year listeria outbreak: https://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/03/blue-bell-reports-on-root-causes-of-five-year-listeria-outbreak/
- Texas listeria finding triggered latest Blue Bell recall: https://www.dallasnews.com/business/retail/2016/09/23/texas-listeria-finding-triggered-latest-blue-bell-recall
- Blue Bell knew of listeria problems in 2013 investigators say: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/blue-bell-knew-of-listeria-problem-in-2013-investigators-say/
An example like this is a good reminder
What can you learn from this? Consider implementing business continuity and crisis management planning into your business by completing Dairy Australia’s online recall training module: http://manufacturing.dairyaustralia.com.au/learning-centre/training-courses.
Gauge the impact of a food recall on your manufacturing business, then develop skills in communications and business continuity planning to meet your statutory responsibilities and create your own food recall plan. The course ends by putting your new plan to the test in a mock recall scenario. And use this tool to rate the food safety culture within your business: https://tradeready.dairyaustralia.com.au/dairy-food-safety-culture-self-assessment-tool/