Brewery sues consumer magazine over mycotoxin tests

23-05-2013

A Czech brewery is taking the country’s leading consumer magazine to court over tests which detected high levels of mould in one of its brews. The Svijany brewery questions the accuracy of the findings, as additional testing did not find increased levels of mycotoxins in its beer. In an email leaked to the press, the brewery’s manager also says that government subsidies for the magazine should be cut.

Photo: archive of Radio PraguePhoto: archive of Radio Prague In its latest edition, the magazine dTest published the results of tests of 50 Czech beer brands for the presence of mycotoxins which are toxic chemicals produced by moulds. Out of the 50 samples, 37 were found to contain high levels of the substance. Long-term consumption of mycotoxins can lead to health problems and negatively affect the immune system.

The highest levels – 85 micrograms per litre – were detected in Svijanská kněžna, a dark beer produced by the Svijany brewery. In a bid to defend its reputation, Svijany had this and its other brews tested and found that the levels of the substance were within norm. The brewery then filed a lawsuit against the consumer magazine, and will also sue dTest for tarnishing its name. Petra Winklerová is the brewery’s spokeswoman.

“We sent samples of our beer for tests to find out whether any of our suppliers shipped us poor-quality malt. But it turned out that we received no inferior malt because the levels of mycotoxins in our beer were much lower than given by dTest.”

The magazine could not be reached for comment but its PR manager told the news webiste ihned.cz on Wednesday they stood by their results, and said that this was not the first time a producer had sued the magazine over its findings. Some experts have, however, expressed doubts about the brewery’s argument. Jana Hajšlová from Prague’s Institute of Chemical Technology is a specialist on food contaminants.

“I don’t see any rationale behind the dispute. To my knowledge, dTest always chooses labs with high credit and those that are accredited, which is a guarantee of good results. So I don’t have any doubts that beer with high levels of deoxynivalenol mycotoxins was found. As for the contradictory data from the other laboratory, there is no evidence of the identity of those batches.”

A few years ago, Ms Hajšlová herself tested hundreds of beer samples collected in various countries, including the Czech Republic. She believes that dTest found an anomaly – which could happen anywhere.

“Czech beer was average in terms of maximum levels which we could see. The situation also changes from year to year depending on climatic conditions which are closely connected to moulds in barley.

Jana Hajšlová, photo: archive of Institute of Chemical TechnologyJana Hajšlová, photo: archive of Institute of Chemical Technology “So I think what happened was that an outlier sample was detected on the market and obviously, the raw material was of poor quality. This cannot be generalized in any way, but quality of raw materials should be always be ascertained.”

dTest each year receives several million crowns in subsidies from the Ministry of Industry and Trade. In what seems an obvious retaliation, the director of the Svijany brewery has called on other Czech beer producers to lobby for cuts of the subsidies. When asked about the issue, the brewery’s spokeswoman said they saw nothing wrong with starting a debate about public funding for a consumer magazine that they believe does not provide a reliable service.

23-05-2013