Not planning for a product recall escalating to crisis leaves a corporation, its brand and reputation extremely vulnerable. We have seen this in massive pharmaceutical, automotive, food, children’s toys and even pet food recalls.
No-one can forget the shockwaves that came out of the Tylenol Paracetamol cyanide poisoning in Chicago back in the 1980s when two mothers, two sisters, a bride, a 12 year-old girl and a stewardess all died from deliberate poisoning. The product crisis was immediate and tragic. Johnson & Johnson recalled Tylenol and, working with the Federal Drug Administration, developed a tamper-proof package for redistribution at a cost of $150 million.
Globally, there is a tightening of product safety controls. Regulators are looking for thorough, fast response to recalling a faulty or contaminated product in terms of consumer contact and recovery of products. The fact is, incidents of product recalls escalating to crisis are occurring with greater frequency than ever before.
Corporations need to establish crisis teams that can respond fast to a critical product recall. Threats need to be identified in advance. Product recall processes need to include a crisis trigger.
Deliberate contamination or threats to a product that might kill or injure are crises that require the immediate involvement of law enforcement agencies.
Running regular product recall and integrated crisis exercises will anticipate and deflect or reduce the impact of the worst case scenario.