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Coca Cola . Crisis in Belgium. Abstract of Case.
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Coca Cola Crisis in Belgium
Abstract of Case • The case discusses the crisis faced by Coca-Cola in Europe, particularly Belgium, in which people mostly school children fell ill after consuming its products in mid-1999. Coca-Cola had to recall about 30 million cans and bottles, the largest ever product recall in its 113-year history. For the first time, the entire inventory of Coca-Cola's products in Belgium was banned from sale. The case describes the crisis in detail and discusses how Coca-Cola managed it. The way Coca-Cola handled the Belgian crisis was a classic example of one of the worst public relations fiascos in the corporate history. The case also highlights the need and importance of a crisis management plan to prevent such fiascos in future.
Issues • Understanding the public relation issues involved in Coca-Cola's Belgian crisis • • Appreciating the importance of developing a crisis management strategy • • Appreciating the need for advance planning and preparation for managing crisis • • Examining the role of a person with a high degree of accountability (such as the CEO) in managing public relations and crisis management • • Analyzing how Coca-Cola handled the Belgian crisis and draw lessons from it
Background • The Belgian crisis broke out on June 08, 1999. Thirty-three children aged between 11 and 13 of St. Mary School in Bornem, Brussels, complained of headaches, discomfort, dizziness and nausea. A few vomited and were sent home. The school management then made efforts to find out why so many students had fallen ill. • The enquiry revealed that students had drunk Coke shortly before they began complaining of their illness. The Coke had arrived at the school packed in cases of 20-centiliter glass bottles that were shipped from Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Antwerp. • The same day, the plant's management was called and briefed about the children falling ill after drinking Coke. • A few plant managers visited the school to assess the situation, but, for some reason, decided not to take the remaining Coke stock back with them...
The Explanation • With things not going their way, Coca-Cola's executives came forward with an explanation of what had gone wrong. They claimed that their experts had investigated the problem by testing the suspect batches for chemicals and the tests showed nothing toxic in the beverages...
Your action • What would be your action if you were the management team for Coca-Cola? • Provide:- • How you would handle the situation • Post-crisis action • Communication with media