Backer fined for fatal beer contamination in Brazil

A brewery in Brazil linked to a fatal beer contamination incident in 2020 has been fined almost U.S. $1 million.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) ordered Cervejaria Backer to pay $5 million Brazilian Real and reported the fine can no longer be appealed.

Penalties were imposed for a number of deficiencies detected by officials during the investigation including communication with MAPA about the factory layout; changing the composition of beers without prior notice; commercializing drinks without proper registration and for producing, bottling; and commercializing 39 batches allegedly contaminated with monoethylene glycol or diethylene glycol.

The factory in Belo Horizonte was shut in January 2020 after testing revealed diethylene glycol in several batches of beers. The company had said it never bought diethylene glycol but did use monoethylene glycol.

Ten people died and dozens of others were affected with symptoms including blindness and facial paralysis.

At the time, the seizure of products from the premises and the market in Minas Gerais totaled almost 80,000 liters of beer and more than 56,000 bottles from different brands and batches. The products were destroyed.

Permission to restart operations
In 2020, public prosecutors filed a complaint against 11 people in relation to the incident and hearings are expected to start this month.

Police in Minas Gerais found a leak in a tank that started in September 2019. This hole allowed the coolant liquid circulating in an external system to mix with the drink inside the container.

In the past month, MAPA authorized the partial resumption of production and sale of beer at the factory after conditions relating to the fermentation tanks and equipment used were met to guarantee safety of the products.

The business replaced the refrigerant fluid in its process with a hydroalcoholic solution that contains water and alcohol. Since November 2021, it has been producing beer in the factory in a test format so that products could undergo further analysis.

Cervejaria Três Lobos, the company responsible for the Backer brand, said resumption of beer production will help expand medical and financial assistance to those affected.

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