With frozen food company Findus in the headlines for all the wrong reasons after some of its beef lasagne was found to contain as much as 100% horsemeat, we sum up its crisis comms story so far.
On Monday Findus UK withdrew various packs of its beef lasagne from sale, saying it had been notified by its supplier there was a 'labelling issue'.
Yesterday tests confirmed fears this was related to the horsemeat in beef scandal uncovered by the Irish Food Safety Authority in January.
However, the situation facing Findus is daunting as the level of equine DNA found in its lasagne has exceeded the worst example from January, the Tesco beefburger that contained 29% horse DNA.
The media reaction to the test results
The story is also on the front page of The Independent, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror and reported by the Financial Times, Metro and The Guardian. Here's Google News:
And here's a view from Radio 2 breakfast DJ Chris Evans on Twitter to his million-plus followers:
Good luck all at the Findus PR dept. Findus lasagne alleged to contain 100 % horsemeat ! Jaap Stam couldn't defend that one.— Chris Evans (@achrisevans) February 8, 2013
**UPDATE SATURDAY 17.00
There are claims that Findus waited two or more days between being informed of a potential problem with its lasagnes and instructing retailers to remove the products, by the Telegraph and the Guardian.**
The company reaction
So far the company has taken a low profile while awaiting publication of the test results. It has had support from its retained financial PR agency College Hill but, in an indication of how seriously it has taken the matter, it has engaged Burson-Marsteller, the crisis specialist which handled last year's Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster.
In addition to providing statements to the media, Findus has posted the following statement at the bottom of the home page of its www.findus.co.uk website.
'At Findus UK we are committed to our customers and the quality of our products. Following a thorough investigation, Findus UK can confirm that testing of its beef lasagne, produced by a 3rd party supplier and not by Findus, has revealed some product containing horse meat.
'As a precautionary measure, on Monday we coordinated a full withdrawal of our affected beef lasagne in the following sizes - 320g, 360g and 500g, from all retailers. All other Findus products have been tested and are not affected.
'We understand this it is a very sensitive subject for consumers and we would like to reassure you we have reacted immediately. We do not believe this to be a food safety issue.
'We are confident that we have fully resolved this supply chain issue. Fully compliant beef lasagne will be in stores again soon.
'Consumers who have purchased to the product should call our Findus UK Customer Care Line on UK 0800 132584, ROI 1800800500 or email email@example.com. for a full refund.
'We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to our customers for any inconvenience caused.'
**UPDATE FRIDAY 15.00 - Findus UK has issued the following statement:
At Findus UK our first priority is our customers and providing quality products they can trust. But we know that many people have been concerned by the news this week that tests have shown that some of our Findus Beef Lasagne has been found to contain horsemeat.
We understand those concerns, we are sorry that we have let people down and we want to outline the facts.
On Monday 4th February 2013 we undertook a full product withdrawal of our Findus Beef Lasagne whilst we investigated.
Findus UK had extensive DNA testing completed by leading independent experts. On Wednesday 6th February these tests confirmed that horsemeat was present in a number of samples and this information was shared with the Food Standards Agency. The affected products are:
- Findus Beef Lasagne - 320g (barcode 5050093307376)
- Findus Beef Lasagne - 360g (barcodes 5050093306119 and 5050093307345)
- Findus Beef Lasagne - 500g (barcode 5050093307444)
We do not believe this is a food safety issue but as a precaution, we are asking customers who may have already bought Findus Beef Lasagne (identified on packaging with the barcodes above) to contact our Consumer Care Line on our UK Freephone number 0800 132584 (or if you are calling from the Republic of Ireland 01800 800500) for advice and to receive a full refund. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
All other Findus beef products have been tested and are not affected.
We are acting to make sure this cannot happen again.**
**UPDATE SATURDAY 16.00 - The Findus.co.uk home page now looks like this:
**UPDATE SATURDAY 17.00 - Findus has issued a statement saying it is considering legal action against its suppliers.
'Findus is taking legal advice about the grounds for pursuing a case against its suppliers, regarding what they believe is their suppliers' failure to meet contractual obligations about product integrity.
'The early results from Findus UK's internal investigation strongly suggests that the horsemeat contamination in Beef Lasagne was not accidental.'**
The situation could yet get worse for the company as the Food Standards Agency has ordered Findus to test the lasagne for the veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or 'bute'. Animals treated with phenylbutazone are not allowed to enter the food chain as it may pose a risk to human health.