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Consumer Reports Warning to Avoid Romaine due to E. Coli Outbreak

Entered in Public Health


Following an E. Coli outbreak that sickened dozens of people across the U.S. and Canada in early 2018, Consumer Reports (CR) sought to raise awareness of a public health issue and demonstrate its authority on food safety research and insights.

After analyzing real-time public health data in early 2018, CR determined that romaine lettuce was the likely source of a deadly E. coli outbreak in the U.S. and Canada.

When U.S. officials failed to issue a recall or pinpoint a cause, CR sprung into action to alert the public, issuing a press release, offering experts for media interviews and creating content for its website and social channels, driving widespread awareness and engagement across all media platforms.

Leveraging Consumer Reports position as a trusted resource to protect consumers interests, CR utilized earned, shared and owned media to inform people about an imminent public health danger, while calling on public health officials to step up and take action.

Strategy and Execution

CR delivered on our nonprofit mission to create a healthier marketplace for consumers in a very public way. Within 24 hours, CR's January warning to avoid eating Romaine lettuce took the public by storm - driven by widespread media coverage featuring CR's experts and record-setting social media buzz. In addition CR saw record traffic on its owned channels with 1.2 million people flocking to our flagship site - - the first time ever a single story topped one million unique visitors.


Story Count: 2,801 articles

TV/Print Reach: 6.62 Million

Online Reach: 4.82 Billion

While the U.S. government had yet to issue a warning to the American public, CR's food safety team quickly came together to make the recommendation based on the potential risks, particularly for vulnerable populations like the elderly, children, and pregnant women. This critical public service advice resonated and went viral on social media with the story and video setting several CR social media records including referrals to CRO (500,000+), shares (more than 220,000), video views (516,000) and comments (nearly 15,000). The news also trended for two days on Facebook. In addition, CR's call to avoid Romaine generated widespread earned media coverage with more than 900 placements across a variety of media outlets, including Good Morning America, Nightly News with Lester Holt, Popsugar, and Buzzfeed. Many, such as the New York Times, positioned CR as a critical consumer watchdog, saying "American officials have not yet issued recommendations to avoid any particular product because they are still collecting information on the outbreak. Consumer Reports, the nonprofit advocacy organization, said it was urging shoppers to avoid the lettuce as a precaution."


Video for Consumer Reports Warning to Avoid Romaine due to E. Coli Outbreak

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Consumer Reports