Joe Levitt, partner at Hogan and Lovells US LLP
“Make no mistake, the recent listeria-related recalls have made the Food and Drug Administration very sensitive to looking for Listeria and not just in ice cream production facilities,” said Joe Levitt, partner at Hogan and Lovells US LLP, during IDFA’s new workshop, “Recall Ready? Managing Recalls and Protecting Your Brand” held on Monday in Bonita Springs, Fla.
More than 40 ice cream professionals participated in the workshop to be sure their companies were ready to handle a possible recall under the new Food Safety Modernization Act. The workshop was offered as a pre-conference option for people attending IDFA’s annual Ice Cream Technology Conference this week.
Levitt was a main speaker, along with Gene Grabowski, a partner at kglobal, a full-service consulting company that specializes in crisis and reputation management. Levitt and Grabowski have worked together to manage a number of food recalls.
The workshop covered the fundamentals of a product recall, reviewed a company’s rights and responsibilities and outlined strategies for limiting liability and managing customer expectations. The participants represented a range of positions, including general manager, account executive, quality assurance and communications.
Culture of Safety
“If you have a recall plan that was written four or five years ago, I can guarantee you that it will not be robust enough for a recall today where information moves at lightning speed in social media,” Grabowski said.
According to Levitt, “The best way to protect your brand and to manage the unexpected is to instill a culture of food safety at every level of your company.”
Grabowski noted that many recalls occur at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon because too many companies waste precious time during the week trying to deny the need to recall products. “The faster you move to take control of the narrative, the more trust you will retain with your consumers and customers,” Grabowski said.
Case Study: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams proved the truth of Grabowski’s advice last year when it conducted a recall of all its products due to Listeria monocytogenes. John Lowe, CEO of Jeni’s, spoke about the shock he and the company’s senior team experienced when they were notified by a state health department that Listeria monocytogenes was found in one of Jeni’s finished products. He candidly told attendees how the recall tested the company’s commitment to transparency with its customers and consumers.
“We had to decide if we were going to live up to the company core values,” Lowe said. “Today I can tell you that our loyal fans and customers stayed with us because we were open and honest about what was going on.”
Later in the day, participants had the opportunity to try out what they had learned during a table-top crisis exercise that involved four fictional companies.
“In the span of two hours, we saw each fictional company move from the role of villain that sold products that could make people sick to the role of vindicators, because they moved swiftly, did the right thing and ultimately became heroes of their own recall,” said Grabowski.
For more information on the workshop, contact Peggy Armstrong, IDFA vice president of communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org.