Can Customer Reviews Alert the Food Industry of Product Safety Issues

When products become faulty or food becomes unsafe to consume, companies in the food industry often issue recalls and public statements of apology and restitution. Sometimes, the testing of products is not enough, and actual users need to purchase and use the products for a period of time before noticing major problems.

So, how do companies learn about these problems? Customer feedback to companies is crucial, so recalls and improvements can be made to protect customers’ safety. Online reviews and postings are the quickest and easiest way for customers to let others know about an unsafe product, especially when immediate harm is possible. Sometimes, there can be a delay between when the customers know and when the companies find out about a problem. Also, delays can happen between company updates to customers regarding the next steps the company plans to take.

Cooker Safety

Slow cookers (and their speedier cousin, a.k.a. the pressure cooker or the power pressure cooker) seem to be in the news a lot recently. On Super Bowl Sunday this year, NBC’s popular television show, This Is Us, portrayed the death of a main character via a fire ignited by a faulty switch in a slow cooker. Representatives from the television show issued statements confirming the general safety of slow cookers to curb a drop in sales. According to federal data, only two slow cooker owners suffered injuries, not deaths, from the product between 2012 and 2015.

Ironically, alongside the fictional problems with the cookers, real-life safety incidents have made the news. In early March of this year, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the recall of Instant Pot’s Gem 65 8-in-1 multi-cooker, sold at Walmart. Based on over 107 consumer reports, this multi-cooker is capable of overheating and melting from the bottom and, thus, poses a fire hazard. Use of the product resulted in five actual fires and subsequent property damage (no injuries, however). The company’s official notification of a problem with the cooker surfaced in February. The delay between this notification and the governmental recall led to consumers taking to social media to vent their frustrations and confusion about the company’s next steps. Instant Pot’s Facebook page has been the primary site for communication between the company and its customers from different geographic locations.

Power Pressure Cooker XL

The Power Pressure Cooker XL is sold with all the typical marketing flair (and even PDF versions of the manual) at powerpressurecooker.com. Endorsed by Chef Eric Theiss, the product receives the lavish praise. The customers’ reviews about the actual experience purchasing and using the product can be found on independent reviewer eKomi’s website. Here, a customer can compare the real-life usability of the power pressure cooker with what the company and the chef have to say.

Because these cookers require an investment of money as well as time, customers are apt to view a variety of sites. The research they are willing to do for a worthwhile pressure or slow cooker is evident in the comment section of a 2017 Consumer Reports article on what to look for in a slow cooker. Customers clearly want to know more than just basic information about what makes a cooker good. They want it tested and reviewed. A 2017 Business Insider article does just that: a team reviews select cookers that work for different reasons and for different types of customers. They base much of their analysis and recommendations on customer reviews from Amazon, knowing that what other customers have to say truly matters.

More Than Just Cookers

Cookers are not the only hazardous product to have reached the market. Millions more exist in varying degrees of public impact. For any company in the food industry that manufactures a product, consider the following guidelines about customer safety and treatment below:

  • Even if your intentions are pure, your product may not be 100% pure. Mistakes can happen. Check with the manufacturers about product standards. Make your customers aware of the most likely safety hazards in the manual.
  • Make sure the customers who purchase your products know how they can find and reach you in case of problems.
  • If your product becomes faulty or toxic in spite of all safety precautions, warn potential and existing customers right away about the details of the problem.
  • If you start seeing one customer complaint after another about the same product on your social media or website, start to investigate and follow up directly with each one.
  • As quickly as possible, make clear your restitution options to customers who have purchased your product. Recall the product and test for improvements. Check with a lawyer about how to proceed with customers who have faced injury, death, or property damage because of your product.
  • Even if you face financial consequences and customer losses right after a faulty product, you can recover. Be open, honest, and considerate with your customers during the difficult time. They will remember your treatment of them.

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