Concern about the Jack In The Box-Vons food poisoning crisis i s running so high among a variety of meat suppliers that not only fastfood compan" data-categories = "" data-popup = "" data-ads = "Yes" data-company = "[]" data-outstream = "yes" >

The burger blues: food poisoning has suppliers worried By Kathy Tyre

Concern about the Jack In The Box-Vons food poisoning crisis i s running so high among a variety of meat suppliers that not only fastfood compan

A month after the Jack In The Box incident, which killed two people and left hundreds of others with food poisoning from contaminated meat supplied by Vons, businesses have reason to protect their bottom lines. At least one major fast-food competitor to Jack In The Box anonymously reported a 20% sales decline in the weeks following the incident to Nation’s Restaurant News. Jack In The Box reported sales plummeted 30-35% following the incidents.
A surprising range of suppliers and restaurants–from grocery meat departments to room-and-pop seafood dinner houses–report increased inquiries about food quality from customers since the incident. Most, however, have decided not to address the issue formally.
“Any company in the industry has discussed the problem and what to do about it,” said Patty Parks, spokesperson for West Coast fast-food chain Carl’s Jr.
Parks said the chain deliberated over whether to run ads because, like others, Carl’s sales saw some decline in areas where cases of food poisoning were reported, but ultimately decided not to address the issue in its next round of advertising from agency Goodby, Berlin & Silverstein/S.F. Parks declined to discuss specifics on that campaign.
The same is true for other fastfood firms. “Our manufacturing and preparation processes exceed USDA industry standards,” said Janice Smith, spokesperson for Irvine, Calif.-based Taco Bell. “In light of that, we are not doing any specific quality advertising on the way we process beef. We chose not to address it because our advertising already discusses the quality of our product. But I think the whole food industry and consumers in general took note of this story.”
Several weeks after the incident, Vons launched a campaign featuring its spokesperson, former chairman Bill Davila, talking about the quality of Vons’ meats. Concerns have stretched to other grocers.
“We considered addressing the problem publicly for Smith’s instantly, as soon as the problem surfaced and a grocery was considered the source of the problem,” said Richard Zien, president of Salt Lake Citybased Smith’s Food & Drug agency Mendelsohn/Zien, L.A. ‘We recommended we deal with it in-store with some form of signage and also consider advertising.”
Smith’s chose to monitor in-store the level of questions consumers had about Smith’s meat. “We felt there were a significant number of questions that consumers had about where Smith’s meat came from,” said Zien. “But we found they were dealing with it well on a store-bystore basis, and there was no need to elevate a response to a masscommunication level.”
At least three dinner houses nationwide have pulled hamburgers from their menus. A small Southeastern chain, Manzetti’s, included a flyer on its menu last week explaining to guests that no burgers would be served until FDA cooking standards could ensure quality. Anthony’s Home Port, a seafood restaurant chain in the Seattle area, did the same thing.
Jack In The Box continued to address its crisis in advertising in major markets last week, explaining the steps it has taken to uphold higher product standards. “This incident brought the issue of the safety of meat supply to the forefront of consumers minds,” acknowledged Sheree Zizzi, director of corporate communications for Jack In The Box parent Foodmaker, San Diego, Calif. “And it’s possible other companies need to increase the education and awareness of their programs to their customers.”
But Jack In The Box also resumed its regular product advertising in certain markets outside of Washington, where a child died from the food poisoning.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)