Sunday, February 3, 2008

Olivier Dip Botulism Recall - Is Anybody Listening?

On Friday, February 1st, I reported that Olivier Napa Valley, Inc. was recalling seven production lots of its “Parmesan & Asiago Dip with Garlic & Basil” due to a risk that the product could support growth of Clostridium botulinum. According to the Company’s January 30th press release, the recall was initiated after “...state officials found elevated [pH] levels in the product; which can allow favorable conditions for botulism toxin production.”

The recall announcement appeared both on the California Department of Public Health website and on the FDA website on January 31st. But, even though the recalled products were distributed nationally to Williams-Sonoma retail stores, there has been no mention of this potentially deadly problem in the national media. Furthermore, one of my readers contacted her local Williams-Sonoma store on Friday and learned that they had not been notified of the recall.

While there have not been any illnesses associated with the recalled product, the risk is very real. Oil-packed garlic and other oil-packed foods have been the source of botulism outbreaks in the past. The combination of an anaerobic (oxygen-free) environment and mild acidity (pH of 4.6 or higher) creates the perfect conditions for the growth of Clostridium botulinum and production of its deadly neurotoxin. This recall deserves to be publicized every bit as widely as the on-going New Era Canning recall.


  1. I am concerned that the factory conditions and/or product formulations which led to this recall are not clearly understood and, therefore, could lead to additional low-acid conditions within the containers of ALL products. Also, the manufacturers press release currently suggests that consumers return identified lots to their retail source or double-wrap packages and dispose in a 'locked or controlled area.' To better resolve potential factory/formulation conditions that led to this product recall, why isn't all identified product double-packaged and returned to the manufacturer for further inspection? Who can be sure that disposal locations for 10,000 jars of potentially-tainted cheese oil are all 'locked and controlled?' This recall seems entirely inadequate to identify a potential lack of internal manufacturer Quality Control protocols which MUST include internal-audit procedures to better safeguard public health.


    URGENT: Williams-Sonoma Food Supplier RECALLS 'cheese dip w/oil' due to packaging quality failure.

    With regard to the press release dated 01-Feb-2008 issued by the President of your Food Supplier (Olivier Napa Valley), I have read the Public Health Recall media announcements. I did not see a statement for your customers on your website, warning them that one of your suppliers has announced a product recall. Importantly for your investors, what may potentially impact your suppliers Brands can also negatively affect the Williams-Sonoma Brand. For instance, given your nation-wide distribution, including your internet-sales distribution, were these recalled 'cheese dips w/oil' sent overseas? If so, this potential possibility must be reported to overseas Public Health Authorities so that they may issue local/regional recalls to their citizenry.

    Will your supplier handle any negative-impact on the Williams-Sonoma Brand after potentially mis-managing their food product recall effort?

    This recall seems entirely inadequate to identify a potential lack of internal manufacturer Quality Control protocols which MUST include internal-audit procedures to better safeguard public health.

    Anonymous Consumer Advocate
    San Francisco, CA

  3. Thank you, Anonymous.

    Please post an update comment when/if you receive a reply from Williams-Sonoma.

  4. Given how 'tough' we have been with Chinese manufacturers endangering our demand-chain, I think we as American Manufacturers MUST demonstrate leadership in protecting OUR CITIZENS FOOD SUPPLY.

    Please contact the President of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Her contact information and company bio are pasted from the WS website below. It is important that sufficient public pressure be placed on the up-scale retailer Williams-Sonoma to better review the qualifications of its 'cheese dip' vendors. Importantly, this up-scale retailer is the primary customer of the manufacturer (OLIVIER NAPA VALLEY). President Alber MUST exert leadership to ensure that not only her customers remain SAFE but that the end-recipients of Williams-Sonoma, Inc. Brands such as Pottery Barn, Kids Pottery Barn, Teen Pottery Barn, etc. This esteemed company has developed into a San Francisco-based Luxury Brand. President Alber is ulitmately responsible for her supplier quality control standards, as are the leaders of our Chinese manufacturers and trade-partners.


    Williams-Sonoma, Inc.
    Attn: President Laura Alber
    3250 Van Ness Avenue
    San Francisco, CA 9410
    (415) 616-8775

    Web-based Bio:

    President Laura Alber joined Williams-Sonoma, Inc. in 1995 and was appointed President in July 2006. She had previously served as President, Pottery Barn Brands since 2002. Ms. Alber has also held the positions of Executive Vice President, Pottery Barn Merchandising; Senior Vice President, Pottery Barn Catalog and Pottery Barn Kids Retail; Divisional Vice President, Pottery Barn Catalog; Director, Pottery Barn Catalog; and Senior Buyer.

    Ms. Alber has been the leader behind several of the company's most impressive growth strategies, including the multi-channel expansion of the Pottery Barn brand and the creation of the Pottery Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Bed+Bath, and PBteen brands.

    Ms. Alber received her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvani

  5. For Williams-Sonoma, Inc. to remain 'blissfully unaware' of this American manufacturer product recall in the 10,000-Unit range will, in my humble opinion, be a poorly-advised legal strategy. This is a real opportunity for Williams-Sonoma, Inc. to strengthen its relationships with its varied brands cult-like followers. By Monday, AM PST you would expect a national public statement to protect the SAFETY of its adult, teen and kid customers and recipients of gifts sent outside of the American market. Brand erosion will begin to ensue should inaction remain for an additional 24 hours. --ANONYMOUS

  6. "How Did the Perception of 'Tainted Cheese Dip' Taint an Esteemed American Luxury Brand? Does Executive Bliss Lead to Ignoring Brand Basics 101?"

    Will it lead the FOOD/LIFESTYLE sections or the BUSINESS sections or both?

  7. Is that the title for your next feature article?

    I have sent an email to the attention of Laura Alber via the Williams-Sonoma website "contact us" page. I'll report on any reply that I may receive.

  8. Maybe all involved are in Davos and can't be disturbed. Oh well. Keep sniffin' the cheese-dip.

  9. Williams-Sonoma, Inc.: "LET THEM EAT CHEESE-DIP." -- 01-Feb-2008


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