Sunday, April 01, 2007

Tainted Food Affects Several Species and Brands

Years ago consumers worried about tainted beef in their hamburgers or undercooked chicken. In the past year concerned mothers have expanded their attentions to peanut butter and prewashed, prepackaged spinach. In the past few days, however, many consumers have realized that their beloved animal companions are also at risk for contaminated food.

NestlĂ© Purina PetCare Company announced yesterday it is voluntarily recalling all sizes and varieties of its ALPO® Prime Cuts in Gravy wet dog food with specific date codes. A Canadian company, Menu Foods, and Hill's Pet Nutrition, a division of Colgate-Palmolive Co., was also affected by the same tainted wheat gluten which was imported from China. Testing of the gluten revealed the culprit to be melamine, a contaminant and byproduct of several pesticides.

With so many stories about contaminated foods every year, consumers everywhere, including myself, are paying more attention to labels. The word 'organic', 'kosher' and 'hormone-free' mean more than just higher prices, they mean peace of mind about what is being put on the table (or in my cat's food bowl). More companies are attempting to set themselves apart in a positive, healthy way, but what about the companies whose reputation has suffered because of a fault with their supplier? Some joke that Americans have no long-term memory, but after an incident with tainted lettuce, Taco Bell parent Yum! Brands lost $20 million in its fourth quarter and spinach sales in general have wilted.

Will Yum!, Purina, Hill and other brands be able to counteract the negative publicity and recover in the long term with an issue that hits so close to the dinner table? How should companies handle negative publicity brought on by external entities, such as their suppliers and distributors? Is negative publicity as detrimental to dog food brands as it is to human food brands? Does the product affect how the company handles negative publicity?