CONFECTIONERY giant Cadbury will today launch a national advertising campaign to alert customers about a recall of Easter eggs because they have the wrong nut allergy labelling.
The company ordered the recall of selected Easter eggs, Mini Creme Eggs and Easter Chicks with Buttons because of the risk of causing potentially-fatal allergic reactions.
Thousands of the products are being removed from shelves in yet another public relations disaster for Cadbury, which only two months ago announced that a salmonella scare last year cost it 30m.
Customers who have already bought the suspect confectionery - made on a production line where nuts had been used in other products - will be able to claim a full refund.
The scare also follows a recall two years ago by Cadbury of 360,000 chocolate Advent calendars because ingredients that could trigger allergic reactions were similarly not named on the packaging.
The company confirmed yesterday the products were being recalled because they were unsafe for people with nut allergies and had not been correctly labelled.
It stressed, however, that the products were still "perfectly safe" for those without a nut allergy.
The adverts will say: "The above Easter products may contain traces of nuts. As a precaution, we advise nut allergy sufferers not to eat any of the above Easter products until they either call the helpline number or log on to the website below for further information."
Asked how many products were involved, a Cadbury spokesman said it was likely to be thousands rather than millions.
He added the problem had only affected specific product lines. "It is not all of these lines but some in specific batches. They were particular batches of chocolate made on a line that also makes products with nuts in them."
Cadbury found out about the problem on Friday, but the spokesman refused to speculate on how much the latest health scare would cost the company.
He said the priority at the moment was to get the products back and protect nut allergy sufferers.
"I don't think we will go into money, because this is clearly the priority now," he said. "It is specifically for nut allergy sufferers, and we are talking about a particular section of the population."
People who have already bought Easter eggs and chocolates on the recall list will be able to claim a full refund by writing to an address provided in the advert. Customers can also ring the helpline on 0800 818181 or go to the company's website at www.cadbury.co.uk/easterrecall
Nut allergy, particularly to peanuts, is one of the fastest-growing allergic conditions in Britain, with numbers estimated by health experts to have risen from one in 200 children in 1996 to around one in 70.
Around 20% spontaneously outgrow the allergy but the rest have to live with the condition throughout their lives.
In the majority of cases, the reaction to peanuts is not life-threatening, but a minority may go into anaphylactic shock and die when exposed to only trace amounts.
In 2003, Amanda Mills, a 19-year-old Aberdeen student, collapsed outside her college as she ate her lunch.
She had suffered an anaphylactic reaction to a peanut contained in a sandwich and died five days later.
Another sufferer is Franz Ferdinand singer Alex Kapranos, who in 2004 became seriously ill after inadvertently eating peanuts in a dessert cooked by a friend.
Last year's salmonella alert cost Cadbury dearly. Seven product lines and more than a million chocolate bars were taken of the shelves in June.
Contamination at one of the firm's main factories in Herefordshire caused the problem.
Sales of chocolate bars plummeted in the following weeks and Cadbury Schweppes' chief executive admitted in December it had been a "challenging" year.
The contamination was caused by a leaking pipe at the firm's huge Marlbrook plant.