Product Tampering Response

May 12, 2009

On Sunday, May 3, 2009 a customer, eating at the Clifton Park, New York T.G.I Fridays found a severed snake's head in his broccoli. From all accounts, it appears that T.G.I. Friday's, a division of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, took all of the right steps to minimize the potential damage from this most recent product tampering criminal act.

The restaurant chain immediately pulled the product from all of its restaurants and notified the New York State Police. The questioned product was sent to an independent laboratory for analysis. On May 11th, the laboratory reported that snake's head was uncooked, meaning the head was placed in the food sometime after the cooking process.

Many product-tampering cases are a hoax designed to inflict damage to a company's reputation. Such attacks need to be vigorously addressed in order to keep the public informed and reverse negative publicity, or at least keep it in-check. In one of the more recent famous product- tampering frauds is the Wendy's "finger in the chili" incident. Wendy's reported, in the days immediately following the 2005 product tampering incident, their sales fell 50%. The cost to regain market share and restore public confidence cost the chain untold millions. They had no previous crisis management experience. Today, Wendy's has one of the most efficient and complete crisis management response programs. This was a costly lesson for Wendy's - is your business prepared for the next product tampering threat?

Curtis Baillie, Principal - Security Consulting Strategies, LLC