Kraft Foods factory evacuated after workers botch chemical recipe, create 'poisonous cloud'

Friday, October 19, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: Kraft Foods, evacuation, chemicals

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(NaturalNews) A German food manufacturing facility owned by Kraft Foods Inc. was recently evacuated, along with 1,400 nearby residents, after factory workers reportedly poured nitric acid into a giant vat containing sodium hydroxide. According to, at least 1,800 people in total, including the factory workers, were forced to leave the premises and immediate area surrounding the facility after the combination of the two chemicals created a "poisonous cloud" and a potential explosion situation.

The incident was so serious that 700 firefighters were called on the scene over the course of two days to try to cool the tank, which experienced a critical temperature spike in response to the chemical reaction. Nitric acid, which is commonly used to make both nitrate chemicals and explosives, tends to react strongly with sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, which is often used in the food industry to chemically peel fruits and vegetables, as well as to produce caramel coloring additives. (

Kraft apparently had both chemicals onsite as part of its regular food production operations, and a worker mix-up resulted in the two accidentally being mixed together, according to reports. Efforts to contain the calamity were largely unsuccessful at first, as the chemicals created a poisonous gas cloud capable of damaging skin and causing severe health damage if inhaled. So rescue workers from as far away as Hamburg were called in to help get the situation under control.

"We [had] to swap in the specialists every 20 minutes, and then we also [needed] new protective suits, and they [were] still running short," said regional fire chief Stephen Meier to the German news source The process of removing the acidic blend from the tank was also laborious, he added, and local schools and kindergartens were temporarily dismissed in order to ensure the safety of local students.

According to Heike Hauerken, a spokeswoman for Kraft Foods, the two caustic chemicals are used to clean equipment at the facility, which produces primarily processed cream cheese, ketchup, and mayonnaise. As disturbing as it truly is, the use of explosive chemicals in the processed food industry is actually quite common, providing yet another incentive to stick with unprocessed and organic foods as much as possible.

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