It would be impossible for you not to have heard that there has been a problem with peanuts that were processed at a particular plant in Georgia, resulting in a salmonella outbreak nationwide. The sheer number and volume of product recalls as a result is nothing short of astonishing – from diet foods to dog foods. The FDA has provided a very thorough page that contains the latest recalls and other resources.
The FDA has also done something else smart. They are now Twittering under the handle FDA Recalls. One of the reasons that is smart is because there are now a LOT of people twittering, including over 1000 newspapers. There are also hundreds of television stations. When a crisis is brewing, or underway, Twitter is the very first stop for anyone in crisis communications – it is the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
It is the most instant read of what is going on and a barometer for whether or not a crisis issue is being discussed. There are hundreds of foodies on Twitter, as there are blogger mommies, who before they blog about a topic are going to Twitter and gather what people are saying on Twitter. There are also many Twitterers solely devoted to food safety. There are a LOT of Tweets going on about the peanut butter issue, some of which are terribly interesting actually and some that give an indication of how far reaching the crisis has been and how people feel about the whole thing – from the agencies handling the crisis to the company involved to peanut butter in general. That is why, in a time of crisis situations, the first place to consult is TweetScan, where you can enter a term and instantly see what people are saying about it.
The FDA gets kudos for using Twitter. They also posted a video on their Web site, but it was not accessible by me. It did not appear on the FDA YouTube channel FDAnews, which is a mistake. Also, since his introductory message on January 21, Dr. Torti has not returned to his effort at direct communication to stakeholders on the FDA site. The peanut crisis is an opportunity to explain food safety and changes that may occur. Or at least, say something. 12 days is a long time.
Remember Tweetscan in a time of crisis. It will be your best friend.