The Right Thing To Do
By Jim Knisley
Late last week I cleaned out my fridge removing all the cold cuts and
other meat and tossed them in the trash. I suspect thousands, if not
tens or hundreds of thousands of Canadians did the same thing.
Later that day I went to the grocery store and avoided the deli and meat counters. I suspect many Canadians did that as well.
Suddenly omelets, cheese and lots of fruits and vegetables looked like a better option. I noticed other shoppers taking a similar path through the store.
This was, I think a natural and perhaps short-lived response to a listeriosis outbreak that, by Monday, health officials had linked to 12 deaths.
Health officials have also linked the outbreak back to a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto.
For Maple Leaf, as CEO Michael McCain said: “This is the toughest situation we’ve faced in 100 years as a company. We know this has shaken your confidence in us.”
Maple Leafs job now is to restore that confidence and it is on the right track to accomplish that.
It has recalled all the products that came from that Toronto plant and not just products from the lines thought to be responsible for the outbreak. It is not only cleaning up the plant it has allowed television cameras in to record the cleanup.
It also put its top man, not some communications specialist, in front of the public and the media. He has been open and candid.
While nothing will undo what has happened, McCain and Maple Leaf are doing what must be done if the public’s confidence is to be restored.
Too often, in the past, those in the middle of a public storm have tried to minimize the situation or, even worse, hide. When it comes to food that simply doesn’t work. The public loses faith and when that happens it can take years for an industry or company to recover.
Maple Leaf’s total recall of products from the plant is going to cost it about $20 million. The value of its stock has plunged. There are even reports of a class action lawsuit. Shoppers are being cautious and are concerned.
But it could have been much worse. By being open and proactive Maple Leaf has done the right thing, it has saved its brand and maybe even saved the company.