H&K forms unit to thwart BSE fears

NEW YORK: Hill & Knowlton is the latest PR firm to form a global

practice area devoted to lessening fears about the spread of bovine

spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and the equally insidious foot-and-mouth


The fears have prompted a rush for PR counsel by a range of


Along with the beef industry, pharmaceutical, food, plastics and

cosmetics companies are concerned. H&K is working with three clients -

one new, two existing - to help plan responses to government regulation,

as well as consumer and media interest.

'This has become one of three or four global public affairs issues.

There is a lot of confusion about the regulatory environment,' said Paul

Taaffe, H&K worldwide president.

H&K's move follows Edelman PR Worldwide's decision to set up a similar

unit, which it is calling the Mad Cow Monitor. The practice has signed

three new clients, all of whom did not wish to be named.

Likewise, Burson-Marsteller works with both the National Cattlemen's

Beef Association and McDonald's (for which it is agency of record) to

educate the public about BSE and related diseases. As part of its

approach, the agency established www.bseinfo.org in January.

'We've been working with the beef industry in the hope of giving out

some basic information,' said Carina Bates, Burson's Chicago-based

director of marketing.

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