United States: Why Educating Employees On Email Best Practices Should Be A Top Priority For Food Manufacturers

Employees of a typical food manufacturer send and receive thousands of emails every day. However, it can take only one bad email — whether from the present or the past — to bring down an entire company. In one informal message, an employee can unknowingly express an opinion on the company's liability, falsely implicate the company in wrongful conduct or make an admission which binds the company to an unfavorable position. That email can sit on the company's server and function as a potential "time bomb."

Emails carry so much risk because, in recent years, they have become the evidence of choice in litigation.  Lawyers are willing to search the haystack of emails for that one "smoking gun" needle to use as Exhibit A in any lawsuits. For that reason, food companies should focus on training their employees to "think twice and click once." Employees must learn that their emails can be used against them and the company.

Also See: 5 Things to Know When Sharing Information in Food Manufacturing

For example, a food scientist might discuss the potential harmful effects of a specific ingredient, but not mention that the ingredient is harmless as used in the company's product. The scientist may have assumed that the email recipient understood the full story, but the email could be used out of context.

Alternatively, a marketing employee might send a seemingly amusing or joking email about deceiving the public in a label or advertisement. That email could easily be turned against the company in court.

Do's and Don'ts

Corporate management, with the assistance of legal counsel, should take the lead in educating employees that when they click on their keyboards, no matter how informal the situation, they must keep in mind:

  • All emails may be read by an adversary one day
  • The words used in an email may be taken out of context
  • Any email can be used against the employee and the company

Food manufacturing companies should consider the following in trying to educate their employees properly:

  • Disseminate an email policy to all employees
  • Conduct online training programs
  • Run seminars during which troublesome emails are reviewed
  • Randomly audit emails and speak with employees who generate emails that could pose problems for them or the company

Regarding the last point, the company should advise employees that they have no expectation of privacy to their company emails, and that their messages may be monitored.

Keep it Simple

When educating employees, they should be advised to follow these rules:

1. Ask if you would want to read about that email in The New York Times. Try not to write anything that you would not want to see featured by the news media. For example, the company does not want to have the following email on its system:

To: Q. Cee

From: Mike Manager

Re: Product Contamination

I can't believe we have not taken care of cleaning the conveyor belts. Once again, the Company has proven that it is penny wise and pound foolish. Of course, you know I love watching you get all wet cleaning the belt. But seriously, is this ever going to be addressed? Do we want our kids eating this stuff?

2. Send emails to as few people as possible. Too many employees send copies of emails to a host of other employees. The more employees who know about an email alleging, for example, a concern about a potential contaminant, the more people who can face charges for a failure to act, regardless of whether any action was necessary. Employees should be cautioned that they risk making every recipient a potential witness. Here all the cc's are potential witnesses if an accident occurs:

To: Jean Yuss

From: I. Meanwell

cc: B. Zaro, K. Kreme, R. McDonald, T. Carvel

Re: Lunch

Had lunch at the factory today (ugh!) and noticed once again that those banana peels are on the floor. Someone is going to slip. Just hope it's not me. ;)

Thought you should know.

3. Consider a phone call for sensitive issues. Avoid emails when a phone call or a meeting would be more appropriate. Employees should be cautioned to think before they commit a random thought to an email that can become a permanent record. For example:

To: U.R. Smart

From: I.M. Dumm

Re: Contamination Issue

I think I really screwed up. I forgot to review the plan for boiling the new product to make sure that it's safe for processing. I guess this is just another of the many mistakes we've all made on this project. I'll talk to the team about it, I guess.

4. Don't render an opinion on company liability. Try to avoid expressing an opinion on liability unless the employee has been asked to do so. Words such as "dangerous," and "defective" are powerful, and should not be used lightly. Employees should be instructed to not put on their "lawyer" hats if they do not work in legal roles. Furthermore, if an email is going to document a problem, the employee should be advised to note the steps that have been taken to resolve it.   For example, employees should be told to be vigilant about health and safety, but avoid  speculating about liability in an email:

To: O.H. Boy

From: Dee Fendant

Re: My 2 Cents

I'm sitting here at my kid's soccer game and had a thought to pass along to you. I'm not a lawyer, but I am guessing that we are violating federal regulations by not reporting the dangerous contamination problem I think saw last week. Should I get measured for an orange jumpsuit?

Employees should make every effort to write accurately in emails. Emails are all too often written in a hurry. Employees should be urged to avoid speculation and to reflect before committing information to writing. Employees need to be reminded that an email written "off the top of one's head" can be turned into the "gospel" by an adversary in litigation. Similarly, emails should not be a vehicle for letting off steam. 

Certainly, a company should have a quality control protocol and should pursue any performance-related issues. An employee, however, may be totally off-base in his or her comments, or may rush to judgment. The unfortunate company may never get a chance to clear up the email at trial.


The net-net for any food company is that investing in an effective email training program can pay huge dividends. As with any policy, it is important to communicate it to all employees, secure company-wide support and enforce it consistently across the board. By doing so, any food company can avoid its adversary from being armed with a lawsuit silver bullet.

Previously published in the May/June print issue of Food Manufacturing.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions