Blog: Dean BestCadbury faces bitter court battle

Dean Best | 23 April 2007

After suffering the financial cost of last year’s salmonella scare, Cadbury Schweppes now faces prosecution, it emerged today (23 April).

The scare forced Cadbury to recall over one million chocolate bars last year, hit sales by as much as GBP35m (US$70m) and damaged the reputation of one of the UK’s best-loved brands.

Cadbury will be prosecuted over the way it handled the scare. Notably, it allegedly took the company almost six months to notify the relevant authorities of the salmonella contamination. At the time, Cadbury insisted it had followed the guidelines to the letter as, the company said, the level of salmonella detected was below that needed to trigger an alert.

However, local health and safety officials in the company’s base of Birmingham begged to differ. The city’s council told just-food that Cadbury had put on sale products that were “unsafe for human consumption” and had “failed to inform the authorities in a timely fashion when the salmonella contamination was detected”. Cadbury will also face prosecution for failing to identify hazards from chocolate bars contaminated with salmonella.

As it prepares for a court appearance in June, Cadbury today stayed tight-lipped on the affair. “We have fully cooperated with the authorities throughout their enquiries and we will examine the charges that have been brought,” the company told us in a statement.

Cadbury’s predicament will only serve to re-ignite the debate over how best to handle product recalls. Last week, the UK’s Food Standards Agency published fresh guidelines on how companies should act when food contaminations occur. Researchers in Canada, meanwhile, have insisted that there may be flaws in how food agencies publicise and handle the fall-out from recalls.

Firms need to swiftly communicate any potential health threat to the public. Brands can bounce back from a recall but need to be open and honest from the outset. Only then can the public understand that mistakes occur and that a company’s product remains safe.

The news that Cadbury faces prosecution will remind consumers of last year’s scare and could revive the belief that, through allegedly failing to publicise the salmonella outbreak, the company was perceived to put profits over public health.


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