Wednesday, August 25, 2010

MUM and the Exploding Wheat Germ

July 21, 1985

Public Relations
Kretschmer Wheat Germ
PO Box 302
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Dear Sir or Madam:

I have always felt safe around wheat germ. With all the other problems of life, it always seemed to be one thing I didn't have to fear. If everything around me slipped its moorings, wheat germ was one product I could count on to remain stable. Not any more. The other day our jar of wheat germ exploded!

It was a half-used jar which I had kept refrigerated for several months after opening. Recently I loaned the jar to my mother, who used some and put the rest in her fridge. The next day, she got the jar out to use a second time and it exploded in her hands, propelling a large hunk of glass out of the side of the jar. Although the hole was below the level of the wheat germ, no wheat germ blew out through it. When she leaned down to pick up the glass shard, it was too hot to touch--and the hole it had made was charred and hot around the edges!

Friends have offered various theories. No, the jar had not been near the refrigerator light; the light doesn't even work. As far as we know, nothing in the jar had fermented. And the possibility of demon possession seems doubtful.

Have you run into this before? Is this a case of spontaneous combustion such as takes place sometimes in grain silos? I want to be able to reassure my mother that I did not deliberately rig the wheat germ to detonate.

We await your reply with great curiosity.

Sincerely,
Jessica Shaver

P.S. Perhaps you need to label your jars "Fissionable Material!"


International Multifoods
Multifoods Tower
Box 2942
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55402

August 15, 1985

Dear Mrs. Shaver:

Thank you for informing us about your mother's experience with a jar of Kretschmer Wheat Germ. We are concerned about your report and apologize for this incident. We hope your mother was not injured.

We would like to obtain more details as well as the jar if your mother still has it. We are sorry for the delay in responding to your letter, however, it was addressed to a clearing house which handles our cookbook requests and just now reached our corporate offices. We were unable to obtain a telephone listing for you from directory assistance.

Please be assured that the wheat germ cannot create a condition such as spontaneous combustion which can be a problem in grain storage areas. Neither fermentation nor gas buildup could be factors with this product. In checking with our plant manager, he informed me that in his 14 years of experience, he is not aware of any similar incidents and cannot explain such an occurrence.

We would very much like to learn about this incident in greater detail. It would be most helpful if you could send the jar and any remaining wheat germ to my attention at the above address. We will be happy to reimburse you for postage.

Enclosed is a postage paid envelope to use in supplying further information such as the code number stamped on the jar bottom in blue ink, the size (12 or 20 oz.) and flavor (regular or brown sugar & honey) of the wheat germ. It would also be helpful to know if the product may have come into contact with some chemical in your mother's house or if perhaps a spoon or other utensil used with the wheat germ may have been exposed to some contaminant such as a cleaning compound, solvent, etc. Last, and most important, please let us know if your mother escaped injury. If you would prefer, you may call me collect at _________.

We look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible and will be happy to keep you informed about our examination of the jar should you be able to send it to us. We hope this unusual experience has not discouraged you from giving Kretschmer Wheat Germ another try. Enclosed are some coupons as well as our popular cookbook, "Something for Everyone" which we think you'll enjoy. . .

Sincerely,

Diane Wieland
Communications Manager
Consumer Products Division


August 19, 1985

Ms. Diane Wieland
International Multifoods

Dear Diane:

My mother, after describing the explosion to me over the phone, threw the jar into the garbage. When I said I wanted to see it, she fished it out for me. The hole was perhaps an inch across, like a jagged many-pointed star and some of the glass around it was charred brown.

I wrote you (before I saw the jar) that it was half-used. Actually there were only two inches of wheat germ left in the jar (the largest size, regular flavor) and the explosion was just below its surface. When I saw the jar, some of the wheat germ was wet and was adhering to the side of the jar just below the hole. I immediately assumed this helped explain the hole; my mother insisted that had not been there previously but was a result of having been put in with the garbage.

My mother was not injured, just shaken. I have to say that she is rather scatterbrained and frankly, there's no telling what a utensil she used with it might have been exposed to! She has been in Japan all month and is due back Friday. I'll ask her if she still has the piece of glass.

Sincerely,
Jessica

Note: As it turned out, she hadn't but here's the sketch of it I sent to Diane Wieland. Since the glass of a Kreschmer Wheat Germ jar is thick and the piece blew straight out the side of it without breaking the jar, I assume not only Kreschmer but our Department of Defense would have liked to look at it. I'm sorry we didn't keep it or the jar, not so much for their sakes but as a personal souvenir.
     Things like this could only happen to my mother, But with her they were a way of life.


1 comment:

Cindy - Letters From Midlife said...

Tis a mystery! lol! What a strange thing to have happen. If you ever find out what caused it, I'd love to know!