McDonald’s, KFC, P&G and Odwalla: Crisis Resources for Clarifying Misleading Crisis Remembering

The other day Nadine sent me a link with a video about the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit.  It is a five-minute video that explains the real events behind the myth.  Here is the link:  The video clarifies how the lawsuit loss was a result of McDonald’s failure to manage risk.  There had been over 700 complaints of  hot coffee before the lawsuit.  And the victim did suffer serious injuries and did not get over a million dollars for the settlement.  Sometimes crises become urban legends.  For example, there never has been a rat served at a KFC.  The urban myth came back with a picture posted online in 2015 that was lab tested and was chicken.  Here is link for more of the debunking of the urban myth:  Other cases that fit with this theme would be the P&G and the devil with the man in the moon logo ( and the praise for Odwalla for the deadly 1996 recall it could have prevented (I list some references at the end).  These cases a mix of fiction and misremembered/misrepresented information about the crises. 

Here are some links that explain why the Odwalla case was preventable and how the company ignored the risk warning signs.  Their negligence is why the company lost an important legal case long after the media lost interest in the crisis.



Here are some examples of how researchers praised Odwalla without knowing all the facts. The first piece was too soon to know the court case and focused on the early use of the Internet for crisis communication.  The second piece was well after the court case.   

Thomsen, S. R., & Rawson, B. (1998). Purifying a tainted corporate image: Odwalla’s response to an E. coli poisoning. Public Relations Quarterly, 43(3), 35.

Reierson, J. L., Sellnow, T. L., & Ulmer, R. R. (2009). Complexities of crisis renewal over time: Learning from the tainted Odwalla apple juice case. Communication Studies, 60(2), 114-129.

Here are a few links to go with the McDonald’s video:            

Here are some academic pieces for the Kentucky fried rat and P&G and the Devil

Fine, G. A. (1980). The Kentucky fried rat: Legends and modern society. Journal of the Folklore Institute, 17(2/3), 222-243.

Hulnick, A. S. (2001). Dirty Tricks for Profit: Covert Action in Private Industry. International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 14(4), 529-544.

Kimmel, A. J. (2004). Rumors and rumor control: A manager’s guide to understanding and combatting rumors. Routledge.






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