Birds flying through finished products warehouse, their feces lying on packages of beer cans and restrooms for employees lacking toilet paper -- these were some of the observations of the US food regulator USFDA's investigator who inspected the Panvel plant of United Breweries Limited (UBL) in August last year. PTI has accessed the Establishment Inspection Report (EIR) that was written by the investigator of the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) post plant's inspection.
The company is the leader in the beer category in India with more than 50 percent share of the market. From Panvel plant, the UBL exports to the US its major beer brands such as Kingfisher, Flying House, Taj Mahal, and Maharaja. After inspection, which took place on August 16 and August 17 last year, the regulator and the company were in touch with each other through correspondence in order to resolve issues mentioned in the EIR.
The investigator Denise Connelly wrote in the EIR,"On August 16, 2018, I observed 5 birds flying and perching throughout the beer can raw storage section and one bird perched over the bottle storage section." The investigator "observed feces on packages of cans in the warehouse." She observed that none of the pest control records addressed the issue of birds. Connelly also observed an open dock door leading into the canning room. She told the company officials, who were present during the inspection, that this is a potential source of biological contamination.
V M Prabhudesai, Brewing Manager, UBL responded to her then that "double doors would be installed on the dock door to prevent the entry of birds", according to the EIR. Prabhudesai stated the outdoor storage for the bottles would be moved inside after renovations are completed, as per the EIR.
In response to queries sent by PTI, the UBL said last month, "Gaps in the building have been sealed to prevent bird ingress. Dock door has been installed at the entry to the canning production hall." The company added,"New PVC strip curtains with air curtain has been affixed. A new door has been provided next to the dock door for man movement."
During the inspection, Connelly made another observation, "On August 17, 2018, I observed a hand-washing station without running water, soap or hand drying equipment at the entrance to the bottling facility. I observed restrooms for the factory employees lacking toilet paper on August 17, 2018." The UBL told PTI that facilities for proper handwashing have been provided. "Toilet paper has been provided and replenished in restrooms used by factory employees," it added.
The investigator made another observation in the EIR: "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." The UBL told PTI that now, the excess stock is not ordered and the sugar is stocked in such a way that allows complete inspection. The company added that the leakage from an overhead water line was "arrested the same day".
Connelly observed during the inspection that a wall in the bottling plant was full of peeling paint. "This wall was located by finished products and not near the bottling line. I stated that this could still be a potential source of contamination," she wrote in the EIR. The company told PTI that all areas with peeling paint have been cleaned and repainted. It added that the cleaning manual has been updated.
Connelly also reviewed 47 customer complaints that the company received between April 2017 and July 2018. She wrote in the EIR,"Most complaints were for low fill bottles. There were three complaints (2 in January 2018 and 1 in June 2017) for chipped bottles." The company told PTI that Panvel unit operates with state-of-the-art German machines.
"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 labeler rejects low fills. Also a ''weighing system'' is present after bottles are packed which rejects very low fills," the company added.
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