Packaging, Plastics and Understanding Your Liability

Health concerns associated with reusable bags and containers

Earlier in the year, UK supermarkets and food manufacturers launched a new voluntary pledge to cut plastic packaging. The UK Plastics Pact, with nearly 100 businesses signed up, is an industry-wide initiative focused on transforming packaging and reducing avoidable plastic waste. With environmental documentaries like the BBC’s Blue Planet II stirring public and government opinion, companies are increasingly making a stand to decrease the use of plastic.

The Pact aims to make all plastic packaging recyclable or biodegradable by 2025; and many initiatives are already underway. One retailer has banned sales of single-use plastic bottles for fizzy drinks; carrying a ‘bag for life’ is already second nature for British shoppers; and coffee shops are already encouraging the use of reusable cups.

The changes are welcomed, but not without a price. In August 2017, the Food Standards Agency released guidance which stated that reusable “bags for life” can spread food poisoning bacteria if they are used to carry raw foods such as fish and meat. It has warned that deadly bugs such as E coli and campylobacter can be transferred from foodstuffs when bags are reused; if retailers are looking to utilise a similar practice for food containers, could we see increased incidents of cross contamination from customer containers?

Are You Prepared to Manage this Risk?

Product contamination is an extremely difficult risk to predict. The financial and reputational damage to a business can be significant if handled incorrectly. The issue raises challenging questions: How much could you lose from an interruption to your business processes following a contamination event? What will be the cost to rehabilitate your brand and reputation?

Activate the Crisis Team

When the worst case scenario becomes a reality it is important to have assessed your crisis management preparedness to ensure a robust crisis response.

The crisis management team should have a pre-established, integrated, and aligned plan. It should provide an overall response structure while also detailing how the team will work together.

Such plans should be validated and rehearsed to ensure that each member of the team has a clear understanding of how the overall plan will be executed during an actual incident and their individual roles, putting a plan in place could minimise reputational impact.

Whether an organisation survives a crisis with its financial condition, operations, and reputation intact is determined less by the severity of the event than by the timeliness and effectiveness of the response.