The wondrous widget has been one of the great brewing discoveries of the century, giving the canned drink a head and a taste not unlike draught ale.
But yesterday, Carlsberg- Tetley had to start withdrawing the cans from pubs, restaurants, supermarkets and off-licences after a drinker swallowed a square centimetre of widget which had sheared off.
Although the man, who lives in the London area, did not need hospital treatment the brewery company decided to take no chances and recalled cans of Tetley Bitter, Tetley Mild, Tetley Imperial, Ansells Mild, Ansells Bitter and Golden Oak. Cans should be returned to where they were bought for a refund.
Linda Bain, the company's communications manager, said: "We have identified the problem as a fault in the packaging process which is leading to a very small number of cans containing a piece of plastic widget. We estimate it will affect about one in a million cans, but even one in a million is enough for a total recall."
Canning of these beers will stop while Carlsberg-Tetley, a merger of the famous Danish lager company and Allied Breweries from Britain, works out what went wrong with its widget.
This may cost it dear in the widget wars which have raged in the British drinks market since 1989 when Guinness first introduced the small plastic device which releases nitrogen into the beer when the can is opened. Although a few purists still curled their lips, most drinkers took to the widget, defined in the dictionary as "any small mechanism or device, the name of which is unknown or temporarily forgotten", and sales of cans fitted with them soared by 60 per cent to pounds 125m last year.
Rival brewers could be forgiven for quietly toasting their temporary advantage in a fiercely competitive market last night in anticipation of a better head on their company profits.
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