Media coverage of the baby milk issue was a classic case of ‘bank
holiday-itis’ PR advisers to the leading baby milk manufacturers said
Steve Marinker, a director at Farley’s PR agency Holmes and Marchant
Counsel, accused the media of causing ‘undue alarm’ to mothers by
‘grossly misrepresenting the story’ to fill news pages at a
traditionally quiet time of year.
The agency has been on 24- hour alert over the weekend and has so far
taken 250 calls from consumers and 35 from the media over a report by
the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The report showed the
Government had found slightly higher levels of the organic
chemicalphthalates in baby milk than normal.
Milupa’s head of corporate affairs Helen Messenger, said the issue was a
‘scare story exacerbated by the mass media’.
‘It was a very confusing situation,’ she added. ‘The media got hold of
the wrong end of the stick and the Ministry struggled to cope.’
The MAFF press office claimed that it issued the report two months ago
and the story was picked up by the Independent last weekend.
The Ministry’s senior information officer Paul Hayward denied its
decision to keep the names of the brands in the report secret had
fuelled media speculation.
‘We only name brands if there is a problem, otherwise we unnecessarily
penalise manufacturers,’ he said.
Hayward, one of three press officers who worked over the weekend, added
that blacklisting products without ‘adequate scientific evidence’ could
lead to manufacturers taking legal action against the Ministry.