Communication is never enough, merge with assessment and management: Listeria update from Jenis CEO

I’ve always seen risk communication and crisis communication as the same thing.

riskThe lens may be magnified in a crisis, but without the basics, it’s bound to fail.

And communication can only succeed with effective risk assessment and management.

So while I commend Jenis CEO John Lowe for the proactive steps they’ve taken now that they found Listeria in their ice cream, were they looking before?

That’s not mentioned in the PR.

And no one can ensure 100% safe.

Tell customers your testing regime, tell customers what you do to prevent Listeria (and who are these world-class experts? Adjectives don’t mean much).

The all-hands-on-deck Listeria eradication effort continues at our production kitchen. World-class experts and our team are working together to ensure we get it all, finally and forever.

We are destroying more than 535,000 pounds (265 tons) of ice cream. That is 15 semi-truck loads or more than 300 pallets. We estimate that this recall will cost the company more than $2.5 million. The vast majority of the ice cream, if not all, will be taken to an anaerobic digester that will convert the dairy into electricity and a clean, natural soil fertilizer.

We have since tested a number of pints and buckets. While all of our buckets and the vast majority of pints tested negative, Listeria was found in a pint of The Buckeye State ice cream (5-082-265), and Listeria might be present in other flavors as well. So let me be unmistakably clear: no one should be eating any of Jeni’s frozen products.

riskman-cycleOur suppliers have jumped in and reacted to this as all of us would want. I’m particularly proud of Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate, who immediately had his facility and chocolate tested (all results showed no presence of Listeria), and of Smith’s Dairy in Orrville, Ohio who has always tested our milk and cream for Listeria before delivering it to us and who has jumped in to help us in our time of need. Beyond that, so many partners have reached out with offers of support. And members of our team are beginning to work with a few of our top partners to help us begin to get back on our feet.

In a time of crisis you learn a lot about the quality of the team you play on. Across our company there has been focus and commitment—a rising to the challenge that makes me more proud than ever to be a part of Team Jeni’s. From watching Jeni Britton Bauer dive in with fellow dairy experts to find the root problem, to our fulfillment team scrambling to our Columbus airport vending machines to ensure no one might buy Jeni’s after the recall, these have been a moving few days.

Team Jeni’s is made up of about 575 people. We have taken steps to provide partial pay for team members who are missing work as a result of the temporary closure: 25% for employees in our scoop shops, most of whom are part-time, and 50% for our kitchen employees, almost all of whom are full-time. We are maintaining health benefits. We have slashed budgets and spending in every way conceivable in an effort to avoid layoffs while we try to subsist without revenue, face the very meaningful costs of the recall, and determine just how long our production kitchen will be down.

While we have been working hard to complete the work that needs to be done, it has been impossible for us to ignore the amazing level of support we have felt. It feels woefully insufficient to say it, but, thank you.

Finally, let me reiterate: we will not make or serve ice cream again until we can ensure it is 100% safe. Until we know more about reopening, we are going to continue to keep our heads down and to work hard to get this issue resolved. But know this: you’ll be hearing from us soon.