Odwalla E. coli outbreak (1996) and Crisis Management


Read Odwalla’s case on E. Coli contamination in their products and summarize its findings.

Odwalla Crisis Management


Crisis management is an essential part of the responsibilities of the contemporary company. Unfortunately, in the environment of uncertainty that is so natural for modern commerce, it is essential to be ready to face a crisis, so there is a need for particular attention to the illustrative cases of corporate response to challenges. Therefore, analyzing the 1996 Odwalla food recall crisis and its reaction can assist in making more professional future decisions, including those specific to the UAE conditions.

Summary of crisis

In 1996, Odwalla had to react in challenging circumstances. The company was forced to pay a fine of about 1.5$ million and recall up to 6.5$ million of all Odwalla products containing apple and carrot juice worldwide as a response to notable safety or health issues that had become evident after the accident in 1996 at Washington state. Because unpasteurized apple juice caused one child to die and more than 60 people became sick, so the decision of the company was almost the only possible. Nevertheless, the campaign was associated with costly stagnation of sales, as well as reputation losses.

Identity type of crisis

To make a lesson from Odwalla, it is necessary to analyze the type of crisis and the type of reaction to it. These, as the threat of unpasteurized juice, was internal and unintentional, can be understood as an accident (Cornelissen, 2017). Nonetheless, as safety and health issues obtained particular importance for the food, juice, and medical industry, the company was responsible for the quality of its products. The Odwalla customers were the primary victims of the crisis, while shareholders were only secondary victims. Therefore, the company wisely chose an acceptance strategy in crisis communication (Cornelissen, 2017). Odwalla rebuilds the trust with the customers and focuses on improving quality control and safety system as soon as possible as remediation (Cornelissen, 2017). This response strategy allowed the company to overcome the crisis so that it could serve as an example of professional crisis management.

Serious likely in UAE  

In general, as the reaction of Odwalla was adequate for the challenge, the solution is also applicable in the UAE setting. The discussed problem is not related to such specific UAE threats as computer tampering, copyright abuse, corruption, malicious rumors, and money laundering; the strategy Odwalla chose is adequate for the Gulf region, too (Goby & Nickerson, 2015). However, to ensure a minimal reputation loss in the country, Odwalla might need additional actions. Also, regarding such national features as the orientation of the UAE society toward group priorities, the corporation might need to be more vocal about its social responsibilities. In this manner, Odwalla can cooperate with the government and develop a policy to prevent such problems in the future.


To conclude, the case of the Odwalla crisis communications is an excellent example of a professional reaction to an accident. The company accepted the problem and worked hard to compensate for its adverse outcomes, but eventually succeeded later in 2001, selling 186$ million. A similar approach would be helpful in some cases in the UAE, but the national culture should not be ignored.




Cornelissen, J. (2017). Corporate communication. 5th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, pp.211-227.

Goby, V.P. & Nickerson, C. (2015). The impact of culture on the construal of organization crisis: perceptions of crisis in Dubai. Corporate Communications: an International Journal, 20 (3), 310-325.

The case study was taken from internet sources and other scientific journals. Odwalla’s case serves as a notable case that exemplifies the type of crisis management in international companies. 


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Published On: 02-03-2018

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