Legionella bacteria have been found in wastewater discharged by German brewer Warsteiner after two people died in the village where the beer is made.
But regional government in North Rhine Westphalia agrees with Warsteiner that its beer is safe, and that the brewery is not currently seen as the source of the outbreak.
The Financial Times reports that tourists travelling to the town of Warstein – where the nation’s largest family owned brewer is based have been unable to visit the facility due to the risk of contracting Legionnaire’s Disease.
165 people in the town have contracted the illness and two have died, raising fears within the German beer industry that a link could hurt the reputation of the sector ahead of the Oktoberfest this month.
Warsteiner has brewed beer since 1753 and one of Germany’s top five best-selling beer brands, which is produced to the east of the city of Dortmund.
“In our view, the Warsteiner brewery is not for the time being seen as the original source” of the infection, Frank Seidlitz, spokesman for the Enivronment Ministry of North-Rhine Westphalia, told the paper.
Seidlitz’ ministry insists the legionella bacteria could not have survived the brewing process (up to 100C), since they die above 60C.
An investigation is underway into how the bacteria entered Warsteiner’s sewage system – through airborne means or via process water.
Legionella is named after a 1976 outbreak of a strange illness killed 34 people, with the first symptoms noticed among veterans attending a convention of the American legion, an association of US military veterans.