Kellogg’s explains massive cereal recall

Kellogg Cereal

A couple of days after a massive voluntary recall of cereals which affected many children’s and adult’s favorites including Apple Jacks, Fruit Loops, and Corn Pops, Kellogg’s has issued a press statement explaining what led to this decision. The 28 million cereal boxes were withdrawn due to “an uncharacteristic off-flavor and smell coming from the liner in the package”.

These packages are being recalled because we identified a substance in the package liner that can produce an uncharacteristic waxy-like off-taste and smell. The off-tastes and smells are caused by a slightly elevated level of a substance commonly present at very low levels in the waxy resins used to make packaging materials that are approved by the FDA. These resins are also commonly used to coat foods such as cheese, raw fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers. We did not find any substances that are not commonly used in packaging materials.
We are working with our supplier of the liner to ensure that this problem does not happen again, explained Kellogg’s on the recall dedicated website.

FDA everything-pr

While the substance that caused the initial complaints from Kellogg’s customers is FDA approved and does not usually create any health problems, the larger quantities used on the recalled line of cereal might trigger severe reactions in some consumers, with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. This random and apparently rare effect settles in quite fast after eating the impacting product – it takes 0 to 15 minutes.

We completed a thorough health-risk assessment with external experts in medicine, toxicology, public health, chemistry, and food safety. The experts agree that some consumers are particularly sensitive to these uncharacteristic off-tastes and smells and may have temporary symptoms, like nausea and diarrhea, which should subside shortly. These symptoms are a result of the off-taste and odor in the food; they are not caused by any harmful material in the food.
You should not eat the recalled product because it does not meet quality standards.

The Kellogg’s recall comes in a period when similar decisions have been taken by McDonald’s and the producers of Girl Scout Cookies. While the Kellogg’s action is purely voluntary and the incident is no where near a real health threat, it does add up to the feeling that producers are getting careless about what they release in the market.

Kellogg’s moved pretty fast and recalled a significant number of cereal boxes and their speed of action is admirable. More so as the products did not meet company quality standards, but did not contain any harmful substances. What puzzles me is that the recall has happened on Friday but according to the coverage of the topic they have waited until Sunday to issue the press statement explaining the situation. Wrong PR move in my opinion, as two days are usually enough for people to panic and get to impressively complicated explanations of what happened or, worse case scenario, enough for more people who have not heard of the recall to go ahead and eat more of the affected products and get sick…

Kellogg’s PR agency roster includes  Bell Pottinger (UK), Chime Communications, Lexis PR, Weber Shandwick & Porter Novelli.

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