Supply Chain Matters has provided previous postings outlining the events related to the suspected E-coli breakout involving Nestle’s Toll House cookie dough.  Just about two months since the incident began, Nestle USA has now announced resumed distribution of the product to stores this week. 

To insure identity of the new vs. any older product, consumer packaging will include a blue  “New Batch” label and all shipping cases will be marked in blue vs. the previous black color.  A re-emphasized warning statement on the label will further state: “Do not consume raw cookie dough.” Nestle indicated that these new changes came as a result of consultation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) .

I hope to eventually share some important takeaways regarding this incident of supply chain risk, and I have an outstanding request with Nestle USA to interview a responsible spokesperson. On the surface, some learning is already evident and deeper understanding may yet follow. 

First, let’s quickly summarize events to date. Once the FDA alerted the company to this suspected outbreak and potential link to the company’s Toll House product, Nestle recalled the product with a wide swath of press and media news reports.  Initially, Nestle denied FDA requests for plant inspections, but to Nestle’s credit, quickly re-evaluated that decision.  The FDA confirmed the presence of E-coli in one specific sample of packaged product within Nestle’s Danville Virginia plant two days later.  Later testing determined that it was a different strain of E-coli.  Nestle later  indicated that more than 1000 tests were performed on environmental and other samples within the production facility and its equipment with no E.Coli found.  The investigation was then shifted further upstream in the supply chain to flour suppliers with no other announced findings.

We know that Nestle’s overall response to this incident was swift, no doubt involving a cross-functional response and risk mitigation team. Consumer and distribution channel awareness to the potential contamination was also comprehensive and swift, getting the word out as quickly as possible. However, without a conclusive finding of where contaminated product might have existed, consumers may be left to decide for themselves.  I pointed out in my original posting that the current reach of social media and the Internet has already associated the words of E.Coli and Nestle Toll House together in numerous entries. The question remains if this will have any long-term impact. Should Nestle have taken extra time for further inspection or traceability? That remains to be seen.

Any of us with children know and appreciate the fact that eating raw cookie dough is not a healthy practice.  But kids are kids, including adult kids, and eating cookie dough can sometimes be irresistible.  Now there is a clear warning not to do so.

The next chapter will be whether consumers are satisfied with the quality checks performed, and will continue to enjoy their Toll House cookies.

Bob Ferrari