Rumors have swirled over the last several weeks in the food poisoning/food safety/meat industry/public health alleys that I lurk in, that a Salmonella Montevideo outbreak was about to break.
Frankly, it was an open secret between industry, government, retail and the media for a month. It was just the public that was left in the dark alley.
Finally, it was the CDC that first announced the outbreak late last night that 184 people were sickened in 38 states with Salmonella Montevideo caused by “A widely distributed contaminated food product.” No really, I am not kidding that was the message. Just how helpful is that?
However, within hours a well-crafted press release from Daniele (that did not mention the CDC release) hit the Internet:
… a voluntary recall of its Pepper-Coated Salame products because of possible concerns about salmonella. Preliminary results indicate that eleven ill individuals had consumed salame products from "Daniele Italian Brand Gourmet Pack." State and federal health officials have been unable to confirm a direct link between the illnesses and any Daniele product.
… These products are carried at a wide variety of delicatessens and grocers.
(Thanks to efoodalert we know that at least some of the retail outlets are: Costco, Kroger (including Fry’s, QFC, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, and Smith’s Food & Drug), Walmart, Sam’s Club, Stop & Shop, Amazon, ShopRite and Giant/Martin’s).
Then the FSIS weighed in the morning announcing that Daniele was recalling approximately 1,240,000 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) varieties of Italian sausage products, including salami/salame, because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.
The FSIS also announced that a sample of found in commerce was tested on behalf of a state department of health and found to contain Salmonella (FSIS has a zero tolerance for in RTE products). Interestingly, however, the product tested was similar to products bought by customers who later became sick in the Salmonella investigation, but the Salmonella strain in the tested product did not appear to be the Montevideo strain.
The FSIS noted too that Daniele took the additional action to voluntarily recall all products associated with black pepper, which, according to the FSIS, the company believes is a possible source of contamination.
So, back to some PR ideas for Levick (not that they asked):
1. Daniele products are carried at a wide variety of delicatessens and grocers – That is not sufficient, tell the public where the product actually went.
2. The company believes that black pepper is a possible source of contamination – What facts? Who is the black pepper supplier?
3. Daniele should offer to pay the medical bills and lost wages of those sickened individuals that are linked to Daniele’s products.
Seems like a reasonable PR (and public health) approach?