Forgot password? :

Log in

Product tampering with needles causes debris in a sector worth millions of dollars

Conflicting communication causes confusion and panic

September 2018/ It was global news – needles were being found in strawberries all over Australia. As they were getting closer to tracking down the criminal, needles started turning up in bananas and apples as well. Copycats increased the complexity of the situation. The government promised a reward of $100,000 for useful information about the perpetrator and threatened with the maximum sentence of 15 years. Things went from bad to worse: tons of fruit were dumped, New Zealand no longer wanted to import Australian fruit. This case shows how deficient crisis communication can affect an entire sector.


Consumers wanted to know whether their purchased strawberries were safe to eat and if they could buy new ones.

- The food safety agency announced that they should not consume them and that they should throw them into the rubbish bin.

- The media said that the strawberries had been recalled, which was not the case.

- Meanwhile, the strawberry growers’ federation gave instructions to cut the strawberries before eating them

What should the consumers do?

People started to speculate wildly: was this the work of an employee or the Mafia? Lacking updates, the media tried to fill in the blanks.

Sources: Steve Hather (The recall institute), Adam Fisher (Mediafirst), Allan Briggs (Crisis Shield)

3 tips!

Tip 1 proactief

Be the first information source

This way you are able to control the communication yourself and as a reference point you will be contacted directly by the press, the consumers etc. You avoid media speculation by communicating the facts honestly, unambiguously, transparently and clearly. Moreover, it will be easier to regain consumer confidence after the crisis.

Tip 2 connected

Proactive use of all channels

Place your press release, contact details for your consumers/journalists and a basic Q&A on your website and other social media channels. Updates may spread quickly thanks to social media.

Tip 3 media als partner

Consider the media as a partner

During a crisis, stakeholders will ask you a lot of questions. The pressure on your company increases. Your media image often depends on your contact with the journalist. Consider him as a partner, not as an enemy. This will again contribute to creating a good reputation.

Food Security helps its members by:

1 LP

- Organising a masterclass in crisis communication on May 21, 2019. In this masterclass we will discuss the preparation of a crisis communication plan & strategy, give tips & tricks to communicate credibly in times of crisis, talk about how to interact on social media during a sensitive situation and what to expect from the media when your company is under attack. Real cases will be dealt with in this masterclass.

More information!

LP april 2

- Expanding our expert network. This way you will be able to call on a freelancer who will develop the crisis communication.


More information!

LP april

- Giving a crisis communication workshop at your premises. During this workshop we will develop personalised tools for your company.

More information!