Unlikely Super Bowl Advertiser Death Wish Coffee Issues Recall Because of, Yes, Death Risk

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Credit: Death Wish Coffee

In what it's calling a "precautionary measure," Death Wish Coffee—a highly caffeinated niche brand that gained national exposure thanks to its 2016 Super Bowl ad—is issuing a recall of its Death Wish Nitro Cold Brew canned product.

The company, based in Round Lake, New York, has posted a note on its website following testing of its manufacturing process by a Cornell University team; the statement starts with a rather folksy spin:

Although we're pretty disappointed, we'd like to thank Cornell for being so rigorous in their testing. We can only get better. In short, it looks like our process wasn't perfect and we're excited to revisit it with guidance from some of the most meticulous scientists in the world.

Despite that excitement to "revisit," the statement takes on a darker tone further down when the company gets into the specifics:

After almost four months of ongoing tests, the Nitro Cold Brew has shown no degradation of quality or shelf stability at all. However, in order to ensure industry-leading safety of Death Wish's cold brew products, a recommendation has been made to add a further step in the manufacturing process behind the Nitro Cold Brew. Nitrogen-infused coffee is a fairly new process, in which at the moment, there are few federal standards and regulations through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). With any nitrogen-based products on the market, there is a remote possibility of the risk of Clostridium botulinum (C. botulinum), a serious pathogen that can lead to the growth and production of the deadly toxin, botulin, in low acid foods commercialized in reduced oxygen packaging.

Again, this is a precautionary measure, and there has been no suggestion that anyone has contracted botulism from drinking Nitro Cold Brew. The company is asking anyone who has cans of the stuff to "please dispose of them" and is offering refunds with proof of purchase. More details here—along with the answer to this: "I consumed Death Wish Nitro recently. Am I going to be okay?"

The official announcement about the recall, published on the FDA's website on Tuesday, reads, in part:

Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Diffculty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distention and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention. ... Death Wish is halting production of Nitro Cold Brew until an additional step in the manufacturing process is implemented.

As Ad Age's Jeanine Poggi reported back in January 2016, Death Wish was the winner of Intuit QuickBook's "Small Business Big Game" contest to get a Super Bowl 50 ad, beating out some 15,000 other small businesses. Ad Age chronicled the making of the ad and in March of this year revisited the company to see how it was doing post-Super Bowl.

Here's the company's Super Bowl 50 ad:

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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