CHICAGO (AdAgec.com) -- Taco Bell has launched a public-relations campaign stating that "Taco Bell food is safe," even though it has yet to confirm the source of the E. coli bacteria that has sickened at least 67 people. But the question is whether that's a smart move for the Yum Brands' chain.
According to Steven B. Fink, president of Lexicon Communications Corp., which handled E. coli crises for Jack in the Box and West Coast chain Pat & Oscar's, the company has been smart in putting its president on the front line of the problem. But his reassurances about food safety in Taco Bell ads could be undermined by the company's inability to pinpoint the cause of the illnesses.
Blitz in print
On Dec. 12, the fast feeder ran print ads in USA Today and The New York Times, as well as in papers in
"They're absolutely correct in making him one of the chief spokespersons for the chain," said Mr. Fink. But he said "they made a huge mistake in announcing that they had found the source of the problem and it was corrected when in fact it comes out they had no basis to come out with that statement."
Moreover, he said, Taco Bell will continue to suffer as long as the source of the bacteria goes undetected. "They're going to continue to suffer until they find the source of the outbreak," he said.
On Dec. 11, Taco Bell issued a statement saying it changed produce suppliers "out of an abundance of caution." It said an independent laboratory tested more than 300 samples of its food ingredients, concluding that none of them contained the E. coli bacteria, including its green onions that had earlier been "presumed positive." The statement said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came to the same conclusion. "We have no information regarding any Taco Bell ingredient linked to this outbreak," said Mr. Creed in the statement.
'No. 1 priority'
"Food safety is Taco Bell's No. 1 priority, and we have taken immediate actions to safeguard the public's health from the moment we learned of an E. coli outbreak associated with our restaurants," said a Taco Bell spokesman via e-mail. "We are focused on cooperating with health officials in their investigation to find the root cause, because nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our customers and employees."
Meanwhile, Taco Bell is taking a beating on the late-night talk-show circuit. On Dec. 5, Jay Leno took a shot at the chain. "Taco
Excerpted from Advertising Age
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