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O'Dwyer's Newsletter - Sept 19, 2011 - Vol. 44 - No. 36 (download PDF version)

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Apple juice producers and marketers have launched a PR defense after a syndicated TV program said this week that tests on apple juice detected high levels of arsenic.

apple juice

Dr. Mehmet Oz of “The Dr. Oz Show” reported Sept. 14 that a New Jersey testing lab found elevated levels of arsenic in apple juice in several brands, including Minute Maid, Motts, Apple & Eve, Gerber and Juicy Juice. It suggested increased use of ingredients from China, a top arsenic exporter, could be a cause and the report sparked a flurry of stories about juice safety and spate of blog posts and online discussion, particularly among parents of children who drink apple juice.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer update on Sept. 13, ahead of the show’s airing, defending the safety of apple juice. “There has been publicity recently over the amount of arsenic in the apple juice that many children drink, but the Food and Drug Administration has every confidence in the safety of apple juice.”

The food safety regulator said it has been testing for arsenic in apple and other juices for six years since foreign producers gained market share and said there is “no evidence of any public health risk.”

The Oz show said no representatives from the juice makers, nor anyone from the FDA, would agree to appear on the show. It posted letters from the juice makers defending their products on the show’s website.

The Juice Products Association, a trade group that is managed by New York-based PR and consulting firm Kellen and Company, called the Oz report “misleading” and “not appropriate.” Juice makers argue that Oz measured total arsenic count, which could include natural (harmless) arsenic.

The group had its toxicologist, Gail Charnley, refute the show by noting lab reports from The Dr. Oz Show indicated the laboratory did not use the FDA’s approved test method for fruit juices.

“The results of tests for arsenic in apple juice that were shared by the Dr. Oz Show with the Juice Products Association should not be interpreted as fact,” she said.

But FOX commentator Dr. Manny Alvarez echoed many who voiced concerns when he said of the Oz report and industry response that “arsenic levels in apple juice – at any level – especially levels that supersede acceptable levels that have been set by FDA itself should not be tolerated.”

The Oz show, produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios, seemed to relish the PR response, issuing a press release promoting the show and noting the JPA and FDA criticism ahead of its airing.

“We are not saying that apple juice is contaminated or causes cancer, but we are saying that it’s in the public’s interest to adopt stricter and universal standards for arsenic levels,” Oz said in a statement.

In July, consumer advocacy groups Food & Water

Watch and the Empire State Consumer Project kicked off a campaign to urge the FDA to look at apple juice contamination by heavy metals like arsenic, particularly from foreign producers. They singled out Mott’s brand Apple juice at the time for showing an elevated level of arsenic.

Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, which markets the 169year-old Mott’s brand, blasted the reports in a statement Sept. 13.

“Recent media reports regarding the presence of arsenic in apple juice have been irresponsible and have needlessly alarmed parents in the name of ratings,” the company said in a dispatch titled “Get the facts about apple juice safety.”

Mott’s, which is part of the Juice Products Association, said the FDA tested its Williamson facility last month finding its products safe and operations “sound.”

Oz plans a follow-up show on Sept. 21 and has not backed down from the criticism, telling ABC News that he wants to bring attention to dangers in the food supply.


Gannett CEO Craig Dubow is taking a medical leave and has turned over his duties to Gracia Martore, COO of the publishing combine.

The 56-year-old Dubow took a four month leave in 2009 to deal with back and hip problems.

Duncan McFarland, presiding director of Gannett, says the board has “confidence in Gracia and our very capable management team to run the day to day operations of the company.”


Carolina Lightcap, president of Disney Channels Worldwide, has stepped down after a two-year stint. Gary Marsh is her replacement.

Bloomberg reports that Lightcap is leaving as some of Disney's cable channels are enjoying record viewership.

The 11-year Disney veteran ran marketing in Latin America before assuming the president post. Marsh was DCW’s entertainment and creative chief.


Finsbury and Sard Verbinnen & Company are working PR for BMG Rights Management’s acquisition of Bug Holdings, a Nashville music publisher with rights to legendary collections and up-and-comers like Johnny Cash, Muddy Waters and Kings of Leon.

The parties did not disclose the terms of the deal but Reuters pegged it at around $300M.

BMG, a joint venture of Bertelsmann AG and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, tapped Finsbury’s New York office, while Los Angeles-based Bug Holdings’ co-owner Spectrum Equity Investors works with Sard’s San Francisco office.

BMGRM CEO Hartwig Masuch noted Bug’s “vast collection of evergreen and contemporary compositions” in praising the deal.

Bug’s catalogs include Willie Dixon, Woody Guthrie, Ryan Adams and Iggy Pop. The company also has a joint venture with songwriter Kara DioGuardi.

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