Lessons learned from food recalls

February 18, 2008 7:12:43 PM PST
The Westland-Hallmark meat company is one of nation's largest suppliers of beef. This massive recall could certainly impact consumer confidence.

The images from the Humane Society video at the Westland-Hallmark slaughterhouse in Chino are now seared into the public's mind.

According to crisis management consultant Michael Fineman, when it comes to buying beef, this is what consumers will think of first.

"That is a picture of companies trying to fool the public so they can maximize their profits and that's never good thing," said Michael Fineman from Fineman Public Relations.

The Odwalla Juice Company bounced back from their E. coli outbreak in the nineties, which killed one child and made 50 others sick.

He thinks Westland needs to follow a similar model to mitigate what he calls a national crisis.

"Honesty is going to go far in helping the public understand that the company really is doing all it can to address the situation," said Fineman.

"You don't want to look at your food and think anything other than its safe," said Sam Singer from Singer Associates.

Sam singer led Jack In The Box through its tainted beef crisis in 1994.

Before the recall, Westland supplied meat to Jack in the box, in and out burger, 'and' to the majority of the nation's public schools

"I think it's horrible, for all of us but particularly for the kids. I think they're particularly at risk for having contaminated meat," said parent Julia Lojo.

This parent now refuses to let her sons eat at 'any' fast food restaurants. It's a trend singer says won't change -- until public perception does.

"This raises a lot of safety questions for the industry, this raises a lot of safety questions for the federal government and the public as well," said Singer.

While individual companies, and Westland, for that matter, can lead a consumer confidence campaign, Singer says, in the end -- it'll be tougher federal standards that'll bring beef back to the dinner table.