SCOTLAND: Bottled water firms turn to scare tactics
Posted: August 30th, 2009 - 10:52pm
Aides working for bottled water producers are planning to use scare tactics to protect falling sales in Scotland by attacking the quality of tap water supplied to consumers.
The tactics are outlined in a memorandum drawn up by a public relations company employed by the industry to be used in case "the media turns hostile to our cause".
It suggests using data on contamination of public water supplies with potentiall
-harmful bugs, such as E coli and cryptosporidium, to highlight the merits of drinking bottled water. Sales of bottled water have fallen nationally over the last year because of the effects of the recession on disposable incomes.
The memo, obtained by Scotland on Sunday, was written by a London PR company working for the Natural Hydration Council, an industry lobby group funded by three major bottled water companies. They include Nestlé, which markets Vittel and Perrier; Danone, which produces Volvic and Evian; and Perthshire-based Highland Spring.
It was sent to an Edinburgh-based communications company, 3X1 – which is paid by the industry to lobby on its behalf – to be deployed on the same day as the annual publication of Scotland's Drinking Water Quality Regulator, last Thursday.
The regulator's report concluded that the quality of Scottish drinking water remains "extremely high" with 99.75 per cent of supplies meeting safety standards. It adds that two tap samples in Scotland contained E Coli in 2008, an improvement on 2007 when five failures were recorded.
This prompted Julie McGarvey, of 3X1 to write to her colleague James Laird, at Epicurus Communications in London: "Clock the E Coli data. Good to keep up our sleeve."
Laird wrote back that he had already written a memo, based on an analysis of reports by the Drinking Water Inspectorate in England, that had "observations" that might be useful "should the media turn hostile towards our cause."
He adds that the report offers "potential sound-bite notes that could be used for NHC un-attributable media briefings." "Unattributable briefings" is lobby group shorthand for information passed to journalists on condition they do not name their source.