Taco Bell’s got a clear-cut messaging assignment: convincing customers that its food is safe to eat after Food Safety News identified the fast food chain as the mystery restaurant responsible for a salmonella outbreak across 10 states late in 2011.
On Jan. 19, the Centers for Disease Control reported a slew of illnesses that affected 68 diners in October and November of 2011. Referring to the offending restaurant as “Restaurant Chain A,” the report said that the illnesses had subsided and that the restaurant in question was no longer in danger of selling contaminated food. The report also said that the problem likely happened before the food even reached the restaurants, reported the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 2.
After Food Safety News revealed that many of the victims had eaten at Taco Bell during the outbreak, the company released a statement saying it takes its food quality and safety very seriously and that the public is not at risk now that the outbreak has passed. The company also reiterated CDC’s belief that the contamination “likely occurred at the supplier level before it was delivered to any restaurant or food outlet.”
Unfortunately for Taco Bell, that might not be enough. As the sole consumer-facing company in this food supply chain, Taco Bell might be subject to the most criticism over the contaminated food—even though it wasn’t directly at fault. The company can take this opportunity to earn consumer trust by showing how it will prevent future incidents of food contamination—even at the supplier level.
The Los Angeles Times notes how Taco Bell has recently started to offer healthier options in order to compete with Chipotle Mexican Grill—a restaurant chain known for valuing healthy ingredients above all else. For this new initiative to succeed, regaining customer trust will be more important than ever.
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