Brazil: After death of ten people, brewery fined USD 2.34 million

Cervejaria Backer from Belo Horizonte, was fined almost BRL 12 million (USD 2.34m) for the contamination of beer that killed ten people and left at least 14 with symptoms including blindness and facial paralysis at the end of 2019. (, 23.1.2020)

According to the National Secretariat for Consumer Protection (Senacon), linked to the ministry, the brewery from the capital city of southeastern Brazil’s Minas Gerais state failed to carry out the due recall, to withdraw the products from the markets, "that would guide customers to stop buying and ingesting their products."

Investigation by the CivilPolice found diethylene glycol in Belorizontina beer. The substance is used in the beverage's cooling process. Further investigations revealed a leak in a tank where the substance could obviously mix with beer.

Last Friday, the Ministry of Justice published its sentence. The brewery which is operated by Cervejaria Três Lobos has to pay BRL 11,983,436.74 (USD 2.34m) within 30 days. If Backer does not appeal the sanction and meets other governmental requirements, there is a 25% reduction to the fine.

Cervejaria Backer, forced to close in January 2020 following the incident, was recently allowed to reopen after the company replaced the toxic coolant with a hydroalcoholic solution containing water and alcohol.

Cervejaria Três Lobos has now announced that it will resume selling Backer beer. The company features a Backer Pale Ale, Backer Trigo and Backer Pilsen on its website. However, it is questionable whether the Belorizontina brand, which has been heavily impacted by the incident, will be revived.

Cervejaria Backer was established in 1999 by the two brothers Halim and Munir Lebbos. It was the first craft brewery in Minas Gerais. The brewery was a big success and sold every year more beer. In 2014, in order to satisfy the demand, the company invested in its new Pátio Cervejeiro, consisting of a brewery with an estimated production capacity of about 120,000 hl, a distillery, a restaurant and a shop.

In 2018, to honor the 120 year jubilee of Belo Horizonte, the brewery introduced its Belorizontina beer. The beer was an instant success and accounted for 60% of Backer’s production before the incident. The brewery had and yearly sales of about BRL 84 million (USD 20m). Next to its various types of beer, the company produces and sells a Whiskey called 3 Lobos and a Gin flavored with hops.

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