There is no such thing as bad publicity, apparently.

I’m not sure either Bernard Matthews or Cadbury would entirely agree with such a sentiment at the moment as they struggle to overcome negative media coverage over a bird flu scare and product mis-labelling respectively.

For Cadbury this is a double whammy, coming not too long after the salmonella scare involving one of its production facilities in Herefordshire.

Contrast the experience of these two household names with that of Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, who, along with a number of other leading food retailers, have taken pre-emptive action over concerns about pots of hummus.

It adds weight to the claims in a new study that businesses have increased the number of product recalls by up to a fifth in an effort to protect their reputations from the harm caused by faulty goods (http://business.guardian.co.uk/story/0,,2016367,00.html).

The pre-emptive strike has become a tried and trusted action plan for companies intent on protecting their all-important brand image and public profile, according to the study by lawyers Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP.

Not every major brand has adopted such a strategy, of course, and Sony’s reputation took a bit of a battering among some laptop users over the failure of some batteries. The worldwide bad publicity Sony received over the recall of batteries supplied to some of the leading laptop manufacturers highlighted the folly of the blue chip multi-national’s sluggish approach.

Legal costs and compensation over faulty products can make or break a company, depending on its size.

But even if, like Sony, it can pay the estimated £210 million cost of the battery recall debacle, the damage to the brand could be significantly higher and harder to absorb.

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