Coca-Cola's Belgian Crisis - The Public Relations Fiasco

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : MKTG097 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 300;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 300 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Corporate scams/ Controversies
Case Length : 12 Pages
Period : 1999
Pub Date : 2004
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Coca Cola
Industry : Beverages - Carbonated Soft Drinks
Countries : Belgium, Europe


The case discusses the crisis faced by Coca-Cola in Europe, particularly Belgium, in which people mostly school children fell ill after consuming its products in mid-1999. Coca-Cola had to recall about 30 million cans and bottles, the largest ever product recall in its 113-year history. For the first time, the entire inventory of Coca-Cola's products in Belgium was banned from sale. The case describes the crisis in detail and discusses how Coca-Cola managed it. The way Coca-Cola handled the Belgian crisis was a classic example of one of the worst public relations fiascos in the corporate history. The case also highlights the need and importance of a crisis management plan to prevent such fiascos in future.


• Understanding the public relation issues involved in Coca-Cola's Belgian crisis

• Appreciating the importance of developing a crisis management strategy

• Appreciating the need for advance planning and preparation for managing crisis

• Examining the role of a person with a high degree of accountability (such as the CEO) in managing public relations and crisis management

• Analyzing how Coca-Cola handled the Belgian crisis and draw lessons from it


  Page No.
The Recall 1
Background Note 1
The Fiasco 3
The Explanation 4
The Aftermath 6
Exhibits 9


Case, Coca-Cola in Belgium, Public Relations, Crisis Management, Product Recall, Douglas Ivester, Coca-Cola European Crisis, Quality Problems, Safety of Packaged Foods, Ban on Coke Sales, The Coca-Cola Promise, Coca-Cola Quality Statement, Coca-Cola Safety Policy, Business Ethics

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