The US Food and Drug Administration inspection report of United Breweries Ltd's plant in Mumbai has become a source of embarrassment for the beer maker. A US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) employee had inspected UBL's Panvel plant in August last year. The USFDA had conducted the inspection because UBL exports its major beer brands such as Kingfisher, Flying House, Taj Mahal and Maharaja to the US from this plant.
Some of the observations of the investigator Denise Connelly included birds flying through the finished products warehouse and their faeces lying on packages of beer cans. None of the pest control records had addressed this issue. After the inspection, the regulator kept in touch with UBL through correspondence in order to resolve the issues mentioned in the EIR.
"I observed 5 birds flying and perching throughout the beer can raw storage section and one bird perched over the bottle storage section," read the EIR accessed by PTI. Connelly had also observed an open dock door leading to the canning room. She told the company officials present during the inspection that this is a potential source of biological contamination.
According to the EIR, VM Prabhudesai, Brewing Manager, UBL, had responded to Connelly saying that "double doors would be installed on the dock door to prevent entry of birds". He added that the outdoor storage for the bottles would be moved inside once renovations were complete.
What's the current status?
"Gaps in the building have been sealed to prevent bird ingress. Dock door has been installed at the entry to the canning production hall," UBL told PTI last month, adding that a new door has been provided next to the dock door for staff movement. Furthermore, new PVC strip curtains with air curtain had reportedly been affixed.
Connelly made another observation the same day, this time in the sugar storage room. "On August 16, 2018, I observed the sugar storage room with a leak from the windows and a puddle of water on the floor. The sugar room was full to the point that I could not access all areas," she noted. According to UBL, now sugar is stocked in a way that allows complete inspection and excess stock is no longer ordered. It claimed that the leakage from an overhead water line was "arrested the same day".
Another potential source of contamination observed was peeling paint on a wall in the bottling plant, located by finished products. The company claimed to not only have cleaned and repainted all the areas with peeling paint but also update the cleaning manual. Connelly had also "observed a hand-washing station without running water, soap or hand drying equipment at the entrance to the bottling facility" and restrooms sans toilet paper for the factory employees. Both concerns have reportedly been addressed.
After reviewing 47 customer complaints received by UBL between April 2017 and July 2018, Connelly noted in the EIR that a majority of them were for low fill bottles while three complaints flagged chipped bottles. "The EBI [Electronic bottle inspector] machines have the ability to reject chipped neck bottles. The FBI [Filled bottle inspector] equipment installed after the filling machine and labeller rejects low fills," said the company, adding that a ''weighing system'' is also in place after the bottles are packed that "rejects very low fills".
(With PTI inputs)