UK Woman’s Fridge Explodes, Jar of Rhubarb Chutney Blamed

Fermented chutney has been blamed for laying waste to a senior citizen’s kitchen, though a volatile refrigerant is the more likely culprit.

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Today in exploding refrigerators: A woman in the UK learned the hard way that when delicious rhubarb chutney sits for too long, it can detonate and ruin your kitchen...or did she?

According to The Telegraph, the jar of chutney was given to 66-year-old Margaret Goodwin by a friend. Soon after it began to ferment, eventually building up so much gas within the container that it exploded. The Telegraph reports that it blasted the fridge door clear off, taking a chunk out of the drywall and even lifting the ceiling.

All because of fermented chutney? No...that doesn't seem right.

More likely, it was the result of a refrigerant leak—specifically, an ozone-friendly gas called isobutane. This coolant is increasingly used by manufacturers as an alternative to chlorofluorocarbons, which contribute to ozone depletion. The thing is, while it’s better for the environment, isobutene is highly flammable. After all, it’s derived from butane.

Chutney Medium
A jar of homemade rhubarb chutney is blamed for a refrigerator explosion in the UK, though the culprit was more likely a refrigerant leak. Photo: Flickr user kightp

The Telegraph itself reported on a string of mysterious refrigerator explosions throughout the UK back in 2009, citing isobutene as the likely culprit. The story explained how, in these instances, the gas would escape the fridge’s piping array and leak into the interior. A simple spark—perhaps the switch of the thermostat—would then ignite the gas and make a mess of some hapless punter’s kitchen.

Goodwin’s friend admitted that there had been no other eruptions from the same batch of chutney. And the jar had only been sitting in the fridge for five days, according to Goodwin—most foods don't spoil in that time frame, let alone build up enough gas to violently blast off.

Nonetheless, the technical manager of the retirement complex where Goodwin lives seemed fixated on the old fermented-chutney-in-a-jar ruse. He told the Daily Mail: “Methane from the chutney was the only logical cause.”

Yep! That’s all the explanation one needs. Case closed.

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