Fireball recalled, ingredients safe

By Marissa Novel

Discrepancy in U.S. and Europe regulations to blame for recall

Fireball Whisky, a liqueur which has had an increase in U.S. sales from $1.6 million to $61 million since 2011, was recalled in three European countries about a week ago because of a difference in regulations of an ingredient used to make automotive antifreeze.

Norway, Sweden and Finland recalled the cinnamon-flavored whiskey after receiving a shipment meant for North America that had higher levels of propylene glycol than European regulations allow.


Matt McCarroll, director of the Fermentation Science Institute at SIU, said propylene glycol, a colorless additive found in many food products, can be used as an antifreeze as opposed to ethylene glycol, a poisonous substance.

“The term antifreeze, from a scientific perspective, just means that it lowers the freezing point of the solvent,” he said. “What we think as antifreeze for automobiles is ethylene glycol, which is terribly toxic to mammals.”

McCaroll said the brewing industry uses propylene glycol as a coolant during fermentation because it is safe to add to food.

McCarroll said Fireball likely uses propylene glycol to stabilize cinnamon oil.

“Philosophically, I would rather use a natural extract,” he said. “But when you get into food science, there’s a lot of additional costs and it’s really hard to make a consistent product that way.”

McCarroll said consumers buying products from bigger companies tend to look for dependable taste. But the problem of products made from solvents found in nature is that they tend to be more variable.

He also said propylene glycol is not a major health concern.


“It’s one of the things in my lab that I don’t worry about my students poisoning themselves with,” McCarroll said.

Sazerac, the company that produces Fireball, said in a press release the ingredient is common in thousands of foods including ice cream.

An article published in the journal, Critical Reviews in Toxicology in April, 2013 also found that the ingredient proposes a very low risk to human health.

Sazerac said the European recipe is made to comply with its regulations of the ingredient. European regulations allow one-eighth the amount of propylene glycol that the Food and Drug Administration permits.

Sazerac said both formulas are safe for consumption.

The FDA allows the ingredient in other foods, including frozen dairy products, nuts and seasonings.

Sazerac said there is no recall of the shipments sent to North America.

David Martin, a senior from Marion studying cinema and photography, said the recall opens up a bigger discussion on chemicals people consume, and the United States’ regulations versus Europe’s.

“I think the world is waking up to the fact that what we’re putting in our bodies isn’t coming from ingredients found in the one place it should, nature,” he said.

Martin said his drink of choice is beer that does not contain genetically modified wheat, but said it is difficult to pay for because of his budget.

“It’s hard to afford good beer on a college budget so most of the time I’m stuck drinking something that tends to go against what I stand for,” he said.

Jared Ryan, 26 of Carbondale, said he is not worried about the recall.

“I don’t think it’s a big deal at all,” he said. “It was recalled because of stricter standards in the European Union, not because of any new or existing known health risks of the actual product.”

Marissa Novel can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @marissanovelDE or at 536-3311 ext. 268.