Today, Nestle USA voluntarily recalled its Toll House refrigerated Toll House cookie dough products after it was notified by both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control that they were investigating reports of E.coli illnesses that might be related to the ingestion of these products.  Reports indicated that 66 people have been sickened thus far within 28 states. Here is the link to the FDA press release indicating that all products should be thrown away.

Here we go again, yet another reported food contamination incident, as if we did not have enough.

I have a few thoughts to share from a supply chain risk mitigation perspective.  First, as occurred with Kraft Foods in the pistachio recall incident, we should applaud Nestle USA for its immediate response to this incident.  Having a response plan, and marshaling a crisis team are all critical steps to effective crisis management of these situations.

The production plant that produces the bulk of this product is located in Danville Virginia, and has shutdown production. An article from a  local news outlet quotes a Nestle USA spokesperson indicating that this plant also produces refrigerated pasta, but strangely, that was not reported as being shutdown.  It strikes me that it would be more prudent to suspend  production of all products until this plant can be cleared of any suspected contaminates.

Today, information moves much faster as a result of wide syndication  across the Internet.  By my informal observation, the first AP story announcing the recall hit the media a little after 9 AM Eastern Time. By 3 PM Eastern, Google had a listing of 774 categorized news stories with the keywords of Nestle USA Toll House, and E, Coli associated in the banner, and most of the national and cable networks were featuring the story on breaking news or health related sites.  By 5 PM, the number rose to over 900.  I mention all of this for two reasons.  First, the most important priority was obviously to get the word out to consumers.  That seemed to work at remarkable speed.  But the consequences are obviously one for concern for product management and supply chain. In the span of just eight hours, the potential demand for this product has ceased, and much work remains to identify the root cause, fix the problem, and restore the brand credibility.

Needless to say it’s going to be a hectic few weeks for Nestle USA teams. I wish them well. As we sadly have done too often on Supply Chain Matters, we will continue periodic observation and commentary on this latest incident of supply chain disruption. We trust there will be no further cascading supply chain effects as occured with the paenut butter incident.

In the meantime make sure everyone in your household is aware of this recall and does not eat the uncooked dough.

 Bob Ferrari