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More poisonings in Brazil linked to beer; officials urge extreme caution



More than 20 people are suspected to have been poisoned and four have died in Brazil after drinking contaminated batches of beer. Tests have found diethylene glycol in 32 lots of 10 Backer beers.

Officials from the Minas Gerais State Department of Health recommended no beer produced by Backer should be consumed. The agency advised people who have any beers made by Backer to not dispose of them in sinks or toilets or place them in the garbage. Instead they should be identified with an inscription such as: “Do not ingest. Product unsuitable for consumption”, stored separately from other foods and taken to a designated reception point.

A total of 22 suspected cases of poisoning by diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in antifreeze, have been reported including 19 men and three women. They live in Belo Horizonte, Capelinha, Nova Lima, Pompéu, São João Del Rei, São Lourenço, Ubá and Viçosa, according to the Minas Gerais State Department of Health.

Four have been confirmed and the remaining 18 are under investigation because they presented symptoms suggesting intoxication by diethylene glycol and reported having the product.

For one of the four deaths, presence of diethylene glycol in the blood was confirmed. The man was admitted to a hospital in Juiz de Fora and died on Jan. 7, 2020. The other three deaths are a man who died on January 15 in Belo Horizonte; another man who died the day after in Belo Horizonte and a woman, who died on Dec. 28, 2019 in Pompéu but cause of death has not been determined.

The first person was admitted to hospital on Dec. 30, 2019, suffering from acute renal failure and neurological issues. However, health authorities were also informed of two cases with symptoms similar to intoxication by diethylene glycol with exposure before October 2019 and an investigation is ongoing.

Beers recalled and banned
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (Mapa) revealed tests have found diethylene glycol in 32 lots of 10 Backer beers. Affected drinks are Belorizontina, Capixaba, Capitão Senra, Pele Vermelha, Fargo 46, Backer Pilsen, Brown, Backer D2, Corleone and Backer Trigo. Monoethylene glycol has also been found in some lots of Belorizontina brand beers. Only monoethylene glycol, which is less toxic, is used in operations, according to the company.

Brewery officials said it was collaborating with the recall, official enquiries and internally investigating the issue.

The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa) provisionally banned all Backer beers across the country with an expiration date from August 2020 onwards. The ban will last until the company proves absence of diethylene glycol and monoethylene glycol in its beers and the Três Lobos production site in Belo Horizonte remains closed.

Belorizontina brand beer with lots L1 1348, L2 1348 and L2 1354 and Capixaba beer lot L2 1348 are prohibited and must be collected by Backer as contamination has been proven. Preventive action has been taken for 90 days on all lots of a number of other beers with a date after August 2020 so they cannot be delivered to the consumer and must be removed from shelves.

Tests by MAPA confirmed contamination in the water used by Backer to make its beers.

Several lines of enquiry are being followed including leakage, misuse of monoethylene glycol and possible sabotage by an employee.

On average gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, appear 72 hours after drinking contaminated products before renal failure or neurological signs including facial paralysis, visual blurring, sensory changes and seizure.

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French Salmonella outbreak linked to horse meat from Romania



A Salmonella outbreak linked to horse meat from Romania sickened 25 people in France this past year, according to a new report.

Eleven cases were men and 14 were women. They ranged from 2 to 90 years of age and the median was 68 years old.

In September 2019, the regional unit of Santé Publique France in the Hauts-de-France region was alerted to a spike in Salmonella Bovismorbificans notifications in Nord and Pas-de-Calais during the first two weeks of August, found by the National Reference Center for E. coli, Salmonella and Shigella at Institut Pasteur.

The 25 salmonellosis cases, belonging to the same genomic cluster, were identified between Aug. 4 and 26, 2019. Nine people needed hospital treatment and two had severe complications but none died.

Hypothesis from patient interviews
Twenty people were interviewed. Results of a food survey revealed consumption of chilled raw or undercooked minced (ground) horse meat by 18 of 20 cases questioned in the days before onset of symptoms. No other food was eaten by all those interviewed.

Of the two people who did not eat horse meat, one person was infected with a strain having genetic characteristics slightly different from the other cases and the other was sick after eating a Bolognese pizza in a restaurant.

Consumption of horse meat has decreased significantly in France in recent decades but most of those who eat it live in Hauts-de-France. Horse meat is mainly imported from Italy, Romania, Poland, the United States or South America despite some domestic production.

Symptoms lasted for two to 21 days with a mean duration of 10 days and the mean length of hospital stay was eight days, ranging from three to 21 days.

The investigation identified a common Belgian wholesaler, supplied by a slaughterhouse and a meat cutting workshop in Romania. Batches of implicated horse meat were also distributed to Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and Vietnam.

At the European level, none of the 14 countries which replied to the French alert about the increase in Salmonella Bovismorbificans cases observed any recent rise in infections belonging to the same genomic cluster as the French cases.

Involvement of Belgium and Romania
The fact that most purchases were made on markets made it easier to identify the buying dates and time of consumption. Four distributors obtained carcasses or pieces of horse meat from the same wholesaler of fresh meat in Belgium.

Dates of purchases cited by those sick and analysis of purchase orders and invoices provided by the distributors, made it possible to link the dates of purchase to the raw materials used and with several batches of horse meat, from a slaughterhouse and cutting workshop in Romania.

Controls were carried out in the places of purchase or vehicles cited by those ill and analyzes were done on equipment and pieces of meat, available at the time of inspections but different from batches sold during the outbreak. Salmonella Bovismorbificans was not found in the meat tested.

It was not possible to confirm the hypotheses by finding strains of Salmonella Bovismorbificans in meat consumed by cases, due to the absence of leftovers from implicated lots. The exact origin of the contamination of the meat suspected of causing the outbreak has not been found.

The outbreak was the fourth due to consumption of horse meat documented in recent years. The others in 2003, 2006 and 2010 involved Salmonella Newport, Salmonella Meleagridis and Salmonella Typhimurium.

In 2018, a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak in France was suspected to be caused by chilled horse meat from Belgium, processed in Romania, with raw material from Hungary. Austria, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland were also part of this alert.

In France, Salmonella Bovismorbificans is rarely isolated from humans with less than 50 cases identified, respectively in 2016 and 2017.

Officials said prevention of foodborne infections requires a change in risky eating habits. It involves informing vulnerable people about the risks of consuming raw or undercooked ground meat were contamination will not be destroyed if there is insufficient cooking.

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Why Smucker is discontinuing Jif Power Ups



Dive Brief:

  • The J.M. Smucker Co. will discontinue its Jif Power Ups peanut butter-based snack line. CEO Mark Smucker said during a presentation at the annual Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida that it was a “difficult decision,” but the Ohio-based company needs to reallocate resources to portfolio areas more likely to generate greater financial returns.
  • Smucker debuted Power Ups in May 2018 in both crunchy granola bars and creamy granola clusters. The legacy CPG firm called them a wholesome snack choice with peanuts as the first ingredient, no high fructose corn syrup and 6 grams of protein per serving.
  • Mark Smucker also said at the CAGNY conference that two new Jif products, a creamy peanut butter spread with no added sugar and creamy peanut butter in a 13-ounce squeezable container, would be coming to market in the company’s next fiscal year, which begins in May. 

Dive Insight:

Even though Jif Power Ups apparently didn’t resonate enough with kids and parents to drive large revenues, CEO Mark Smucker said the platform was successful in attracting new consumers to the brand. Jif has a 40% market share in the peanut butter segment, according to the company’s CAGNY presentation, so the new products coming out later this year could help maintain that position, even without peanut butter-based snacks.

Still, it’s hard to understand why the lineup failed to gain enough traction with consumers for Smucker to keep it around. The company announced in October more than 2.5 million households had bought Jif Power Ups as of December 2018, and two versions of the bars were being launched in convenience stores.

The popularity of the snack segment continues to grow, so competition is fierce for shelf space and brand loyalty, especially in the bars category. Other food manufacturers such as Hershey, Kellogg and Mondelez have been buying up bar brands and emphasizing their better-for-you snacking portfolios as the category grows increasingly popular with consumers. But considering the competition flooding the space, now could be a good time for Smucker to bow out, instead focusing its efforts in categories that are not so hotly contested.

For legacy CPG companies such as Smucker, it often isn’t enough to rely on core brands to enhance sales, so it needs to constantly innovate and reposition products to keep up with the trends. As Smucker pulls back on its Jif Power Ups, the company will be investing in other innovations, including one that has been a resounding success: Smucker’s Uncrustables.

In its CAGNY presentation, the company said Uncrustables was “the fastest-growing brand in frozen snacking” with a 19% increase in annual net sales between fiscal year 2001 and 2019. Smucker’s new $340-million, 430,000-square-foot plant in Longmont, Colorado — which started up last summer — can turn out 2 million Uncrustables daily, the company said.

Moving forward, a focusing on more productive investments and enhanced marketing support could help revitalize Smucker’s flagging revenue picture, but it could take time. The company has relied mainly on pet foods to boost sales, followed by its coffee segment. While sales bumped up slightly in fiscal year 2019, its second quarter revenue dropped 3% to $1.96 billion compared to $2.02 billion for the year before. The company is projecting a 3% decrease in net sales for the full fiscal year.

If dropping Jif Power Ups can help improve the company’s bottom line and better streamline its portfolio, then it could prove to be a smart strategy. Since Smucker is expected to release third quarter earnings on February 26, it should soon become clear whether its strategies for achieving more sustainable top-line growth are beginning to have a positive effect.


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