SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Two men in Brazil are believed to have died from drinking local craft beer contaminated with a chemical compound used in antifreeze and other products, police in the state of Minas Gerais said on Wednesday.

Police investigating Brazilian craft brewer Backer found traces of diethylene glycol (DEG), a sweet-tasting solvent, in a beer vat used at the brewery in Minas Gerais state as well as in bottles of their Belorizontina lager.

Backer has won international prizes and its beer is widely available in the country.

There have been 18 cases of reported DEG poisoning, police said in an emailed statement, with four of those cases confirmed. Cases have been reported since the beginning of January

One of the deaths was confirmed to have resulted from poisoning by DEG, while an autopsy is being performed to confirm the second.

In a statement posted on its website, Backer said it was "cooperating fully with the investigations" as well as performing its own internal probe to and understand what happened with the batches of beer identified by the police.

The brewer said it does not use the chemical in its production process but does use a related compound, called monoethylene glycol, which is less toxic.

(Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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