As discussed frequently in this blog, management of an outbreak at its inception determines the course of the crisis (and, in some cases, the fate of the company).

The Globe and Mail, in its ongoing coverage of the Maple Leaf Foods Listeria outbreak, today published a helpful punch list of 15 dos and don’ts for corporate executives managing a food-borne outbreak.

The last two items on the list may be the least obvious but are among the most important:

“14. Do make a list of the five questions you would least like to be asked and be prepared to answer them, since somebody will undoubtedly ask them.
“15. Do set up a rumour control hotline or website if rampant speculation could fuel the crisis.”

A hotline for collecting consumer information and complaints can be valuable. It allows the company not only to get control over and manage misinformation (the point being made in the Globe and Mail), but also to gather information about how many people the outbreak affects and who has fallen ill. Even more important, a hotline may enable the company to direct ill people to appropriate medical treatment, minimizing or even eliminating litigation.