Taco Bell and the Onion Farmer

March 26, 2007

Taco Bell’s e.coli problems aren’t over yet. The outbreak of last December cost them a lot of business and bad press, and now they are being sued by the farmer who supplied the green onions–thought at one time to be the source of the problem. Turns out it wasn’t. And TacoBell either didn’t stop their communication pointing to the green onions in time or intended not to as a way of reassuring the public that they identified the problem and were dealing with it.

Who knows what the truth is. But it is a reminder, that despite the urgency to get information out fast, it is still critically important to get it right. If this was an example of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing (TacoBell folks who knew from the FDA on Dec 11 that it was not the onions, vs. the communication folks who didn’t know this and didn’t cancel the big ad in time) then it is critically important that organizations plan not only on speedy external communication, but a fool proof means of communicating about the incident internally.

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