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Mars, snickers threat aimed at unnamed organi -

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Mars, snickers threat aimed at unnamed organisation

Reporter: Tracy Bowden

MAXINE McKEW: Each year, Australians eat about $1.5 billion worth of chocolate, so it's no surprise
that a threat to contaminate two of the most popular chocolate bars on the market has sparked yet
another massive product recall. Masterfoods acted on Friday, warning people not to eat Snickers or
Mars bars in New South Wales, and a statewide recall program is under way. Yet in an odd twist, the
threats contained in letters to Masterfoods are directed at another organisation which has not been
publicly identified. Tracy Bowden reports.

TRACY BOWDEN: Every week, Australians consume close to a million Mars and Snickers bars. But in the
nation's biggest market, they're coming off the shelves and out of vending machines after an
extortion threat set to cost makers Masterfoods millions of dollars.

hard, pulling together to reach as many people as possible and to focus on getting product out of
stores now, so that we can destroy it.

JOE O'BRIEN, ABC NEWSREADER: The recall of Mars and Snickers bars continued today with 5,000
retailers across the State removing them from the shelves.

TRACY BOWDEN: Masterfoods ordered the recall of the chocolate bars throughout New South Wales last
Friday, after receiving the third in a series of threatening letters.

ANDY WESTON-WEBB: We moved immediately into action, because there was an explicit threat made
claiming that seven Mars or Snickers bars had been contaminated in some way, and placed in stores
in Sydney.

DR JULIAN PARMEGIANI, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: There are a lot of things that can be done easily that
show society to be vulnerable in certain areas. One of them is food tampering, the other is
obviously public transport, areas where large crowds gather. These are all what one would call soft

TRACY BOWDEN: Forensic psychiatrist Dr Julian Parmegiani says these threats are usually made by a
person with a specific grudge against a company.

DR JULIAN PARMEGIANI: These are anti-social tendencies, psychopathic tendencies. People tend to be
fairly remorseless about the intended victim or what they might suffer in being poisoned. It shows
that they have a certain degree of callousness, and probably a high sense of entitlement. They
think they're more important than the average person within society.

TRACY BOWDEN: But what makes this case unusual is the fact that the threats in the letters are not
directed at Masterfoods, but at another unconnected organisation. Have you got any idea why your
company was selected? Is there any vague association with this other organisation?

ANDY WESTON-WEBB: There is none. They couldn't be further apart. We're in completely different
lines of business. There is no connection. And there is no apparent link to either Snickers or
Mars, other than they've become the object of the extortionist's anger or poisoning more

TRACY BOWDEN: I presume the other organisation involved doesn't make a product that you could

ANDY WESTON-WEBB : I can't be drawn on the other company but there is no connection between our two
business. We couldn't be further apart.

TRACY BOWDEN: This is the latest in a string of attempts to extort large Australian companies. In
March this year, Australia's biggest construction company, Multiplex, disclosed a threat to shoot
its crane drivers unless it handed over $50 million.

ARNOTTS SPOKESMAN: This is a very bad day for Arnotts. I think it's a very bad day for the
community of Australia.

TRACY BOWDEN: In 1997, Arnotts biscuits was forced to withdraw its entire stock nationwide, when an
extortionist threaten to poison one of its top selling lines, the Monte Carlo. The extortion cost
Arnotts $22 million. Three years later, Herron paracetamol capsules were laced with strychnine and
Panadol was also taken off the market after its products were contaminated.

SUE CATO, COMMUNICATIONS CONSULTANT: The best spin in these situations is actually truth and it's
the only spin.

TRACY BOWDEN: Sue Cato is a corporate communications veteran who's handled numerous product recalls
and extortion threats.

SUE CATO: One of the really important things that you learn in this game is that your end game, you
go and you work out the exact - the most horrid outcome you could imagine and plan for it.

ANDY WESTON-WEBB: We have established crisis management techniques. The obvious one here that was
very important is our ability to recall quickly. So that we and our major retail partners have
established procedures where we can move quickly into action a and start getting product off shelf.

TRACY BOWDEN: Many more extortion threats are made than are ever made public, and forensic experts
help assess how seriously a threat should be taken.

DR JULIAN PARMEGIANI: When one receives a letter, there's first of all the way it's set up, and
what it looks like gives you some idea of the person's state of mind. Secondly, there is the
content of the letter and that is the kind of threat that they're putting forward, whether it's
credible, and whether it shows a certain knowledge or ability to carry through the threat.

TRACY BOWDEN: Today, efforts continued to ensure no Mars or Snickers bars are on sale anywhere in
New South Wales. And while the focus thus far has been on the public health, this incident must
have a dramatic impact on the financial health of Masterfoods.

SUE CATO: You're talking about millions. You're talking about revenue from lost sales, you're
actually talking about the cost of recalling the product from the market, you're talking about the
amount of money that will have to be spent in just the marketing but also in getting that product
back into market. It's a very, very costly exercise and on every single level.

ANDY WESTON-WEBB : I have no idea how much it will cost us. It obviously depends on how long the
threat remains and when we judge it's safe to go back on shelves. My main concern at the moment is
making sure we do this in the right way and we protect people.

TRACY BOWDEN: Masterfoods's current predicament must send a chill through corporate Australia. No
matter how well prepared companies are to deal with this kind of threat, there's little they can do
to prevent it.

ANDY WESTON-WEBB : Realistically, if somebody's this determined and wants to threaten the community
in this way - and that's indeed what we're talking about here, we're talking about a threat against
the community - there are only so many precautions that can be taken.