Scandals spread like wildfire. They star with a spark that gets viralized by social networks to exploit on TV and the Radio, as well as the written press.
On April 18 the the United States’ NGO, Consumer Reports, released a document stating that Peñafiel and other 5 brands of mineral water have arsenic levels harmful to human health.
Keurig Dr. Pepper, owner of the old Mexican brand, examined its mineral water at the request of the organization and found levels of 17 parts of arsenic per billion (ppt), said the report.
As the legal allowance is up to 10 ppb, the company suspended production for two weeks at the Mexican plant that supplies the US market, in order to improve filtration procedures and reduce arsenic levels.
Keurig Dr. Pepper took action and limited its communication to Consumer Reports, in order to avoid spreading harmful information beyond.
However, the NGO published a tweet with the link to its report which turned to be a match igniting a conversation that reached traditional media, with the company absent to make a follow-up and defend itself in each media outlet publishing the report.
The Mexican media and the US press in Spanish didn’t care about the company stopping it’s mineral water production: They published headlines like “Peñafiel water produced in Mexico has high levels of arsenic, admits the company”,“Peñafiel already accepted that its mineral water has arsenic”, and “Besides Peñafiel, these Mexican products slowly kill consumers”.
This media published that Consumer Reports considered that more than 3 ppb of arsenic in a product is already harmful to the human health, that the Mexican mineral water should be retired of the market and the US authorities had seized Peñafiel’s product in 2014 besides having issued an alert.
By being absent in digital and traditional media, Keurig Dr. Pepper let the media to damage Peñafiel’s reputation for at least 11 days, during which the company could disseminate and expand a part of the response he gave to Consumer Reports, which remained all this time out of reach of the public.
Katie Gilroy, spokeswoman for the company said that “independent experts with whom we have been working have indicated that there is no risk to the health of consumers with current levels” of arsenic.
However, it was not until 29 April that Peñafiel published in its Mexican site an official vague innocuous position on the scandal justifying that “arsenic is present in air, soil and other everyday consumer products”.
The company added that the figure of 17 ppb responds to “slight variations of mineral water” below the permissible limits for simple and flavored water, but said no word on the US site or on the alert.
With no comprehensive information and a press conference to counteract damaging information, the company will see its mineral water sales to fall hand in hand with its reputation. The saying of no offense committed later made in Mexico by the Federal Consumer Procurator’s Office will not be enough.