The CRF plant in Pasco, Washington was closed late in April, then the layoffs began, ultimately leaving 300 employees without work. The good news according to local papers, the plant will be opening again soon, bringing work back to many local families and recovery for the owners and investors of the company.
However, even though CRF had to recall hundreds of products including dozens of brands once Listeria monocytogenes were found in frozen corn and peas from the company making people sick in at least three states – the cause for the Listeria has yet to be found.
Crisis PR by Gene Grabowski
Gene Grabowski was hired by an affiliate of CRF – R.D. Offutt Co. of Fargo, North Dakota. Grabowski is a PR expert and also advised Bluebell Creameries during their recall when ice cream was found with the Listeria virus. Grabowski released information to the local newspapers saying CRF will be looking for the source so they can receive federal approval to reopen the plant. Neither of the federal agencies – the Food and Drug Administration, nor the Center for Disease Control and Prevention – have updated any findings regarding the root cause for several weeks.
The May 3rd, and most recent, update from the CDC said there had been eight confirmed cases of the infection – beginning in September 2013 and the last two happening in January and March of 2016. All of them required hospitalization and though two died their deaths were not considered to be from listeriosis.
The FDA’s most recent update is from May 19th, and they reported that environmental samples taken from another food processing plant in Pasco also matched some of the victims’ listeriosis. That brought about a recall of onion products from the Oregon Potato Co. and one of their wholesale customers, the Pictsweet Co.
When Will CRF Plant Reopen?
All of this begs the question about the company’s plans to reopen their plant and when. Going full-steam ahead until the FDA and CDC know the root cause may not be without its problems, though if the plant tests clean, it may be a possibility. If the cause of contamination is still unknown, it’s difficult to assure future safety of their products. But, if they don’t open soon, the workers who they need to reopen may have found different employment, adding the costs of finding and training new staff to the already large and growing cost of the recall and being shut down may make it impossible to ever recover financially.
But one thing is certain, keeping the public informed now and going forward will be critical to any recovery.