BEIJING: Ogilvy PR Worldwide is providing strategic counsel on a pro-bono basis to Chinese officials to help reassure consumers that food manufactured in China is safe.
In the wake of recalls involving fish, toothpaste, and other products exported from China, its government has been touting, through state-run media including China Daily, a recently launched effort to more closely inspect food exporters, the introduction earlier this month of a recall system for dangerous products, and other measures intended to show that the government is taking practical steps to address safety concerns.
Scott Kronick, president of Ogilvy PR China, said officials at China's State Food and Drug Administration, along with other ministries involved in the regulation or distribution of food, initially took a defensive stance to questions raised internationally about China's export issues, accusing foreign media of sensationalism, for example.
"We have been telling them to be transparent and communicative in the steps they are taking," Kronick said via e-mail. "We're suggesting that they stop blaming the foreign media and not to provide guarantees, but rather to let people know what steps they are taking to rectify the situation."
Beyond the practical steps promoted by the government, Kronick said indications that the government is taking the problems seriously include remarks on the issue by Premier Wen Jiabao at a recent meeting of the World Economic Forum and the appointment of highly influential Vice Premier Wu Yi to oversee the government's response.
Ogilvy is providing its communications counsel through a joint venture with Tsinghua University called the Tsinghua-Ogilvy Program for Public Branding.
Questions about the safety of China's food exports prompted Congress this summer to call for increased inspection of food imports by the US Food and Drug Administration, which currently inspects about 1% of imports.