A case study of the risk and crisis communications used in the 2009 salmonella outbreak in peanut products
Crisis management is a tool designed to fight a crisis; minimize the inflicted damage; and protect the organization, stakeholders, and industry from harm. Crisis management processes include preventative measures, crisis management plans, and post-crisis evaluations (Coombs, 2010a, 2007b). The 2009 Salmonella outbreak in peanut products was the second outbreak caused by contaminated peanut butter and created a period of negative publicity for the food and peanut industry. It was one of many large food outbreaks that the United States has seen in the past six years, all of which negatively impacted the food industries and agriculture. The public assumed that tainted peanuts might have entered into peanut butter and other food items (Smith, 2009). It is important for the various channels of distribution and public relations practitioners in the food and agriculture industry to be able to work together to uphold the strong reputation of the organization and agriculture in the midst of a crisis. Public relations practitioners worked to communicate with consumers to increase their confidence in the peanut industry. Organizational crisis communication messages play a vital role in crisis situations; they provide information for those affected by the crisis and assist in reducing the damage and impact of the crisis on the organization (Coombs, 2010b; Fediuk, Coombs, & Botero, 2010).