Odwalla Crisis Essay

5934 Words Jul 4th, 2010 24 Pages
Companies in Crisis - What to do when it all goes wrong
Odwalla and the E-coli outbreak
What happened?
Odwalla (pronounced "odewalla") is the health-conscious juice company which began a couple of decades ago when Greg Steltenpohl, Gerry Percy and Bonnie Bassett began squeezing fresh oranges on a $200 hand juicer. The company was growing strongly with annual sales rising 30% per year and approaching $90m. The company had established a strong brand with enormous customer loyalty.
On October 30, 1996, everything changed. Health officials in Washington state informed the company that they had discovered a link between several cases of E. coli 0157:H7 and Odwalla fresh apple juice.
The link
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"They did everything they could".
The company did pay a large cost. Odwalla pleaded guilty to criminal charges of selling tainted apple juice and was fined $1.5m - the largest ever assessed in a food industry case by the US Food and Drug Administration.
So is everyone happy?
Not quite - the company still has some critics who say that it was not quite the victim it would have people believe. Jon Entine, for instance, says that 'investigators now contend that Odwalla had significant flaws in its safety procedures and citrus-processing equipment was so poorly maintained that it was breeding bacteria in "black rotten crud'. Before the outbreak, Odwalla had received letters from customers who become violently ill, but had not addressed the problem.
"Resisting industry safety standards, Odwalla steadfastly refused to pasteurize its juices claiming it altered taste and was unnecessary. Yet, the year before the incident, the head of quality assurance, Dave Stevenson, who was aware of the dangers, proposed using chlorine rinse as a backstop against bad fruit. Senior executives who feared chlorine would leave an aftertaste overruled him. They decided to rely on acid wash although its chemical supplier had informed Odwalla that the wash had killed the E. coli in only 8 percent of tests and should not be used without chlorine."
The overwhelming feeling of people who dealt with the company at the time of the crisis was that here was a

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