VAN NUYS — Brewing giant Anheuser-Busch accepted the blame Tuesday for a bottle of Bud Lite that came from the firm's Van Nuys plant tainted with cleaning solution.
A spokesman said a "combination of rare circumstances" at the Van Nuys plant led to the poisoning of a Glendale man last week. Anheuser-Busch has put in place safeguards to guard against a recurrence, the spokesman said.
The beer company has recalled thousands of 12-ounce "longneck" returnable bottles of beer from area bars after Ronaldo Dela Cruz Ciriaco, 35, vomited blood after drinking a tainted beer at a local tavern.
Through an internal investigation, company officials said they determined that a series of failures in the brewery bottle cleaning and inspection process was to blame.
"This is Anheuser-Busch's responsibility," said Steve LeResche, company spokesman. "We're not blaming any individual employees for this. This is a process problem."
LeResche said the company brought in a team of inspectors to investigate the brewery's bottling system and figure out what went wrong. They determined that the mishap was triggered by a wad of paper that had been put in a beer bottle before it was returned to the plant. The paper got stuck in the neck of the bottle and trapped the solution inside during the cleaning process, LeResche said.
Later, the brewery's electronic bottle inspection equipment, which should have rejected the tainted bottle, became jammed and allowed the bottle to pass.
Ciriaco drank two Bud Lites without any trouble, but began to complain of a burning sensation in his throat and stomach after one or two sips from his third beer, according to a police report. He was treated at a local hospital and released the next day.
Ciriaco, a restaurant manager, missed several days work after the incident due to continuing stomach pain and bowel problems. He could not be reached late Tuesday for comment. His attorney said last week that he was considering legal action against the beer company.
LeResche said Anheuser-Busch will install new electronic bottle inspecting equipment at the Van Nuys brewing plant. It will also increase the number of personnel on the bottle line and make more frequent visual inspections of the bottles.
Until the new inspection equipment is activated, the brewery will use only new glass for its returnable beer bottles, which are sold primarily to bars and restaurants, he said.
Busch officials stressed that the incident is a rarity. Of the 54 million returnable bottles produced at the brewery this year, only six complaints have been received, mostly for chipped glass or loose caps, said LeResche. "Consumers can still have complete confidence in our products," he said.