ROSEMONT, IL., April 9—A recent Gallup poll (THR, Volume 1 Issue 13) found about 70 percent of Americans are concerned that mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth disease could spread from Europe to the U.S., and that about one in four have already cut back on their consumption of certain produce because of food safety concerns. It’s against that backdrop that Dairy Management, which uses dairy industry check-off dollars to build demand for U.S. dairy products, is seeking an agency for an issues management program believed to be worth about $2 million.
The five finalists for the account are Burson-Marsteller, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, Fleishman-Hillard, Porter Novelli, and Weber Shandwick Worldwide. Among those not making the cut are BSMG Worldwide and Golin/Harris, both of which work on other programs for Dairy Management; Hill & Knowlton, which in March announced the formation of an asset group focused on mad cow issues; and Manning Selvage & Lee, which handled the bovine growth hormone controversy two years ago.
In a statement issued through Marina del Ray-based consultant Jerry Swerling, Dairy Management executive vice president of public and industry relations Jean Ragalie, confirmed the search, saying, “We are looking for an agency to handle new market place challenges facing the industry. We like to periodically review agencies to address emerging market place issues.” Neither Swerling nor Ragalie would discuss the scope of the assignment further, except to say that it would not impact the group’s existing agency relationships.
However, the dairy industry is clearly concerned about the convergence of several food safety issues, including mad cow disease, foot-and-mouth disease, and genetic modification. The recent Gallup poll suggested that 88 percent of Americans had heard about mad cow disease, which originated in the U.K. but recently affected several other European countries, and 77 percent had heard of foot-and-mouth disease, which has led to the slaughter of 100,000 animals in Britain over the past month.
Foot-and-mouth disease has not been reported in the U.S. since 1929, but it has been reported in 32 countries (including the U.K., France, the Netherlands, and Argentina) in the past 18months.
The Dairy Management website (www.dairyinfo.com) does not contain any information about either mad cow disease or foot-and-mouth, unlike the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association site (www.beef.org), which includes a section devoted to important facts about foot-and-mouth disease and a backgrounder on BSE (mad cow disease).