Cadbury freezes all ads amid salmonella scare

LONDON - Cadbury has pulled its high-profile sponsorship of ITV's 'Coronation Street' until further notice and put its advertising plans on ice after recalling more than 1m chocolate bars due to fears of salmonella contamination.

According to insiders, the company initially wanted to replace the idents, which it uses to promote products across its range, with a message designed to "reassure" consumers. However, Ofcom rules would not permit it.

Cadbury's sponsorship of 'Coronation Street' is the biggest deal of its type, worth £10m a year. It accounts for more than half of the company's media spend, and was  recently used to promote the launch of its Creme Egg bars, in support of TV ads.

The ads have also been pulled, even though the brand was not affected by the salmonella contamination scare and has not been recalled from retailers.

"This is a short-term measure in the light of the current issue," said a Cadbury spokesman.

In contrast, British Airways, which last week became embroiled in a price-fixing investigation by the Office of Fair Trading in the UK and the Department of Justice in the US, is continuing to run executions for its short-haul fares, with the company claiming it was "business as usual".

Cadbury has been criticised for the time lapse between the initial discovery of a salmonella strain in January and its confirmation last week to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and environmental health officials. Questions have been raised as to whether it withheld information about the contamination until after the key Easter sales period.

The recall was announced on Friday. By Monday afternoon, a Cadbury spokeswoman claimed "the vast majority" of affected products had been removed from shelves, though she would not indicate a percentage.

Cadbury said it did not report the contamination because the levels, which were under the authorised threshold, were so low.

An FSA spokesman said any contamination of a ready-to-eat product warrants a product recall. "Chocolate is a high conductor of salmonella and needs only a low level of contamination to be a risk to health," he added.

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