5 Key Takeaways from McGuireWoods’ Latest Food Safety Crisis & Risk Management Webinar

March 8, 2016

From ice cream to eggs, and melons to Mexican food, the recent spate of significant foodborne illness outbreaks and related criminal investigations and prosecutions have highlighted the need for companies at every step of the nation’s food supply to be increasingly vigilant in identifying and mitigating food safety risks. Companies in the food and beverage industry must determine what can be done to prevent and better prepare for a potential outbreak on their watch or in their supply chain.

McGuireWoods’ Food and Beverage and Strategic Risk and Crisis Management groups recently shared guidance on navigating the legal risks of these outbreaks. Our top takeaways are below.

  1. The FDA has rediscovered the long-dormant criminal sanctions available under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; shown an increased eagerness to use those sanctions against companies involved in foodborne outbreaks; and repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to criminally pursue individual executives under the Park Doctrine and the guidance from the Yates Memorandum.
  2. We now have real-life examples of brand-threatening crises involving criminal investigations, indictments and, in some cases, convictions of manufacturers, distributors and even restaurants for events that previously would have resulted in merely recalls, or at worst, congressional appearances.
  3. There are proactive steps companies can take to mitigate the risk of a crisis taking root, to minimize its potential impact and to otherwise be prepared to manage through it. Risk analysis, compliance programs, training and contingency planning are just a few.
  4. Although even the best-laid contingency plans likely will be overcome by circumstances in the face of an actual crisis, the process of developing them and giving critical advance thought to how a crisis might manifest and impact a company will pay significant dividends and is a worthwhile undertaking.
  5. A comprehensive crisis response plan must include a clear communications strategy to be successful. Solving the operational problem is always the primary goal of a crisis plan, but your ability to protect your reputation and maintain customer loyalty long into the future can be significantly impacted by how effectively you communicate in a crisis.

You can view a recording of the webinar by clicking here. Should have you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to one of our speakers below.


  • Robert J Bittman, Partner
  • Alex J. Brackett, Partner
  • Mark B. Hubbard, Senior Vice President, MWCAdvocacy
  • James F. Neale, Partner
  • Angela M. Spivey, Partner
  • R. Trent Taylor, Partner