The old adage “bad news travels fast” is certainly true on a day when there is little else happening on a news desk. With this in mind Poultry Framers in Yorkshire may well need to prepare to answer questions from the media while trying to run a business and follow guidance from DEFRA.
What can be done to prepare for the media enquiries?
Journalists will undoubtedly do their homework and look to see what happened following the last major avian-flu outbreak in the UK in 2008 and they will compare it with what is going on in Yorkshire and of course in the Netherlands today.
1. It will pay you to monitor the news from organisations such as DEFRA and the NFU. That way if you do have to make a statement to the media you will not contradict something that has come from an official source unless you can substantiate the comment.
2. Inform your employees what they should say to the media and to be mindful of what they say in public and on social media sites. Remember that there is no such thing as “off the record” where the press is concerned
3. Prepare a statement that you can use to demonstrate what improvements your Farm and other industry bodies have done to minimise the risk since 2008.
4. Share what you are going to say to the media with your employees.
5. Brief Farm reception staff and anyone who may be required to answer calls from the public or customers.
6. Ensure all visitors and vehicles strictly follow your hygiene protocols prior to entry to your facility.
7. Reiterate the fact that the risk to humans is very low. If it was not the case the media would not be allowed to film so close to farms that have been affected.
8. If you say “no comment” the media will always find someone who is willing to speak to them that may make the situation worse.
9. Be honest and stick to the facts in your statement, don’t be bullied into saying something you shouldn’t and try not to be aggressive of defensive.
In the background it will pay if you can conduct traceability tests on your poultry, your employees and vehicles to confirm that you have not had physical contact with the infected farm since a specific date.
Ensure that you are already following the guidance of DEFRA and if you have been employing good biological procedures emphasise this in your statement.
In addition to conducting your own traceability study you should also contact your suppliers and ask them for reassurance that they have not put you at risk.
This information will be invaluable because your customers will also want reassurance. As we are rapidly approaching Christmas the supermarkets will need reassurance from poultry and egg suppliers that their food is safe. They will not want consumer confidence impacted as it was following the horsemeat scandal.