Following a widespread claim of food poisoning in Southern California and Seattle, Nutritional Foods Inc, contracted me as a consultant. My role is to discuss “The case of the Nutritional Foods”. In the foregoing consultancy, I will give a brief breakdown of the case, underline facts, issues involved, ethical dilemma facing the company and recommendations. In most cases, companies find themselves in compromising situations that require good public relations to save their reputations. Yet, most of the companies lack this important department that would handle such eventualities. This makes the company suffer more harm than good in the event the company finds itself in a compromising situation. Nutritional Foods Inc operates in an industry that is highly exposed to loss of public trust, should one of its food products become by the customers.
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The company is facing the greatest challenge which is food poisoning. The C.E.O of the company, Mr. Fred James received news from the production manager, Mr. John Healy, that food poisoning might have occurred. All the batch numbers of the products could not be allocated. Granville (2013) states that “two of the batch numbers generated were in fact Nutritional Foods Inc and from the same day’s production and one report included another company’s batch” (p. 121). Nutritional Food Inc had no option but to act after all the news outlets pointed an accusing finger at the institution. In order to identify the problem in the counties, the company sent two of its managers. Later on, the company received two more reports of food poisoning. Two more managers were sent to the two new counties to assess the situation and locate the batch numbers of the products.
The dilemma is that one of the reports presented is referring to another company. The dilemma is in the sense that the illness could be possibly caused by the other company’s product. If Fred goes ahead to make a decision without the clear source of the food poisoning, it can lead to negative results in light of the company’s reputation. In the following morning, many customers called complaining of effects caused by different products from other suppliers. The dilemma is whether to recall all the products or not. Fred cannot also decide on what to do with the already sick. There is a risk of admitting liability if the company takes responsibility for the sick.
The biggest ethical issue for Fred is whether to notify the general public of the problem or not. Informing them would ensure their safety while keeping quite will save the brand and image of his company. Andrews (2009) observes that “they first must consider their personal economic stake in the company, their shareholder’s interests in keeping the company profitable, and the potential health risk of the issue. This is an ethical decision, as the company is not legally bound to release the data to the public until a clear causal link is established” (p. 209). After all, a decision had been made to pull the product after the problems escalated.
Of all the news streaming in the newspaper, television and nutritional chat-rooms, 80% lay blame squarely on Nutritional Food Inc. Fred and John have only two alternatives to salvage the company.
- The company has to bite the bullet and notify the public of their intention to pull the products. The company will use its money and profits to take care of the sick. The company will conduct a public relation exercise and promise its clients that future products will be safe.
- Alternative two is to change company’s manufacturing methods from non-pasteurized foods to pasteurized ones. Nutritional Food Inc is a well-known brand in non-pasteurized foods and it has a well developed market niche.
I would recommend to implement the first alternative. It is the most ethical thing to safeguard the health of consumers. It will solve the ethical dilemma in a way that the company will be seen to care about the society. The advantage of this is that the company will continue with its operations long after it has pulled back its products. The disadvantage is that it will take time before consumers fully embrace the products. The stakeholders such as the retailers will be affected in the sense that they will have reduced sales. Suppliers will have reduced business and the industry will suffer from negative publicity. The recommendation will be feasible in the long term after consumers regain confidence with the products. The recommendation will be implemented first by pulling down the batch with contaminated food and later on pulling other products from the stores.
Future Implications for Recommendation
The implication of the recommendation is that the company will take time before it gets back to normal business. It sets a precedence in the industry where companies will act fast to safeguard the health of the consumer. It provides a platform for future managers to make decisions when such a challenge occurs. Other industries will put strict measures to safeguard their products and clients from harmful goods.
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The case presents an ethical issue that can affect any industry. The stakeholders should ensure that products pass the quality standard before selling them to consumers. The players in the industry should take responsibility for their actions and remember about the interest of the consumer. After all, consumer is the boss.
Andrews, K. S. (2009). Ethics in Practice: Managing the Moral Corporation. New York,NY: Harvard Business Press.
Granville, B. G. (2013). The Processes and Practices of Fair Trade: Trust, Ethics and Governance. Boston, MA: Routledge.