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Taco Bell’s Blame Game

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, December 13, 2006

There was a bunch of headlines out that said things like “Green Onions Cleared in Food Safety Probe,” all of which were not true. What happened is that the tests on samples taken from various Taco Bells came back negative. But absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

This is especially true with perishable products, where one would expect product to be quickly consumed or discarded.

The spinach/E. coli situation may have conditioned people to expect to find the “smoking gun” to confirm food safety outbreaks. This is the exception more than the rule on fresh products.

People got sick, the survey data indicates the tie between them is Taco Bell. The absence of a sample left in the store won’t exonerate them.

Taco Bell ran a series of ads in USA Today, the New York Times and other papers. Greg Creed, President of Taco Bell, signed the ad which said that Taco Bell food is safe. This is almost certainly true. Of the countless servings Taco Bell has served over the decades, only an infinitesimal number has ever resulted in any illness anyone knows about.

Still, in the ads Taco Bell seems reluctant to really take responsibility for its own food safety program.

Once again, instead of saying it is standing with its suppliers and saying it works as a team and has full confidence in its team members, it mentions switching produce suppliers. This amounts to an announcement, as we dealt with yesterday, that Taco Bell Makes Ready Pac Its Scapegoat.

In the ad, Greg Creed writes this:

“…we will actively support an industry coalition including government regulators, competitors, suppliers, and other experts to develop improved guidelines and procedures to safeguard the produce supply chain and public health.”

It is hard to know if this is pablum a PR person said would sound good or if he really believes this. Joe’s Diner needs an industry coalition. Yum!Brands, Taco Bell’s parent company, doesn’t. It just needs to take responsibility for its food safety program.

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