Series of recalls could hurt Giant Eagle’s reputation |
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Series of recalls could hurt Giant Eagle’s reputation

Giant Eagle has scrambled to protect customers and may have to mend its reputation after four food recalls in the past two weeks.

The O’Hara-based supermarket chain has pulled certain Giant Eagle branded baked goods, sandwiches and fish fillets from stores because the packaging failed to warn consumers of ingredients that could prompt severe allergic reactions.

Giant Eagle said one customer reported being sickened in all of the recalls. But the company’s reputation could still suffer damage, said Audrey Guskey, a professor of marketing at Duquesne University.

“Supermarkets being so competitive in today’s day and age, any kind of mistake like this can be huge,” she said.

Giant Eagle said in an email Tuesday that most of the recall issues were discovered through internal monitoring and that the company relies on “suppliers and other business partners to accurately account for the ingredient labels and any potential allergens.”

The company would not answer questions about how the problems occurred and whether it has implemented other safety measures. It has alerted consumers about the recalls using contact information in its Giant Eagle Advantage card database and by issuing news releases.

Supermarkets such as Giant Eagle have relied on prepared foods, cafes and niche gourmet products to separate themselves amid stiffening competition from warehouse clubs and supercenters, such as Costco and Wal-Mart.

Food recalls are not uncommon. Giant Eagle competitor Wegmans issued a recall on Monday for 12,540 packages of organic spinach, ironically branded “Food You Feel Good About,” because of possible bacterial contamination.

The Food & Drug Administration requires food companies to warn consumers on packaging if a food contains any of eight ingredients — such as milk, soy, peanuts and eggs — considered “major food allergens.”

In most cases, Giant Eagle discovered the issues before consumers reported problems, although one customer reported being ill earlier this month after consuming Giant Eagle’s Irish Soda Bread, which contains milk.

The soda bread was recalled March 11, the first of the wave of incidents. Last week, Giant Eagle pulled raisin- and apricot-filled cookies out of store bakeries throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia, having discovered the packages did not warn consumers that they contained milk. There were two recalls Monday, in which Giant Eagle-branded paninis were pulled out of the prepared foods department and Japanese breaded cod fillets were taken out of the seafood section. The paninis contained eggs and cod fillets were made with soy.

While these recalls may not lead to mass exodus of business, it could cause some shoppers — especially those with food allergies — to go elsewhere, Guskey said.

“It may cause people to think twice,” Guskey said. “The bottom line is what is this going to do for the reputation of the store. And in the short term, they may lose some customers.”

Chris Fleisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7854 or [email protected].

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