Chobani awarded first-ever Crowdsourced Recall

During the past 24-36 hours, the major social media sites have been lit up by the news that Chobani, one of the major manufacturers of Greek yogurt, had quietly asked retailers last week to remove some of its products from grocery store shelves because of a problem with mold — actually a non-problem in their early recounting — in “less than 5% of its total production.”

I learned of this yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon when I came home with a four-pack of my favorite, the 3.5-oz Raspberry + Chocolate Chips. And then my wife noticed the “bloating” of the unopened-yet-unexploded containers….

Bloated Chobani cups

Charming. That sent me searching on Google and then Twitter. Here are a few links to get you started, on the off chance that you are reading this for some other reason:

• From the Huffington Post: Chobani Pulls ‘Fizzy,’ ‘Swelling’ Yogurt Off Shelves (09/03/13, 6:43 PM);
• From a real-time Twitter search: “Chobani recall”;
• From the Social Analytics page of Topsy: a graph of tweets/day (which I suspect is running way behind the real-time stream, at least as I am writing); and
• From a Google search: “Chobani recall” (556,000 hits at time of writing).

The tweets are predictably all over the map, from supportive to scathing. Most people have been concerned to alert their friends and followers; a few have had “Ah ha!” moments as they suddenly understood an unusual taste or an exploded container or some sickness. So far, there are thankfully no reports of serious illness, though the verdict may still be out for those who tweeted things like, “Great, I literally just ate a cup of this!”

Then there were those of us who wondered why the persistent claim from @Chobani of “No recall here!” hadn’t already turned into a for-real recall. Ironic aside: Take a look at their website and the occurrence of that one little word “real,” including their tag line “Go Real” and the prominent question “What Is Real?” Apparently not the “recall.”

I tweeted this on Wednesday at 3:47 pm:

@chobani keeps repeating the mantra, “No recall here!” Really? If not, maybe it should be!!!

And then, with the intent of a humorous jab, this at 3:53 pm:

Multi-choice quiz for @Chobani: (a) it’s a recall; (b) it’s a PR disaster; (c) both (a) & (b); (d) none of the above except (c).

Now, on Thursday morning, the reports and tweets seem to indicate that, with the FDA looking into the situation, Chobani has decided that, uh, maybe there should be a real recall after all. So this will play itself out somehow, refunds/coupons will be emailed, and we will move on to fretting — and tweeting — about other crises. Hopefully, we can all look back in a few weeks and be thankful that no one became seriously ill.

Notwithstanding the opportunistic tweet last night from @YoplaitGreek — “Now’s the time to try NEW delicious Yoplait Greek” — most of us, including me, will be thankful if Chobani itself survives. But I think there will be another legacy that seems to have gone unnoticed thus far. Here it is in a nutshell from last night at 8:32 pm:

@Chobani – “No recall here!” Sorry, but word weaseling aside, you have been awarded the world’s first crowdsourced recall. Congrats!

Before I sent it, I searched for the phrase “crowdsourced recall” on Google. Nada. So while there may have been other product “incidents” since the emergence of social media that could be retrospectively labelled with this phrase, it appears that none have been. Until now.

So congratulations to Chobani indeed. (And Yoplait, don’t get too smug. You could be next.) But especially, congratulations to all the Twitter and Facebook users who made this happen.

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