Imbibers are being urged to be vigilant against fake alcohol, which is being sold on the streets and by rogue retailers amid growing concern over the proliferation of “backyard distillers” in low-income suburbs.
Health experts also noted an increase in the number of deaths caused by drinking illicit substances and drug abuse.
Over the past few years counterfeiting has become widespread in the country’s liquor industry necessitated by the smuggling of distilled beverages and spirits as well as “home-brewed” alcohol.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at a global level, an average of 25% of all alcohol consumed is unregulated, although it is much more prevalent in lower income countries.
Investigations by this publication last year revealed that “backyard distillers” were refilling luxury whiskey bottles with cheap alcohol or illicit substances while a number of fake whiskies were finding their way into the country through the country’s porous borders.
In the wake of rampant bootlegging within the liquor industry, there have been calls for imbibers to avoid cheap and dangerous fake alcohol.
Jameson Irish Whiskey and Bullred Distribution have partnered Point Blank Africa to launch the #BuyOriginal campaign to ensure that consumers are informed about the illicit alcohol flooding the market.
“We have embarked on this campaign so that we urge consumers to look out for tell-tale signs that bottles are fake,” Point Black Africa managing director Phil Chard told Standard People.
“The idea is to warn consumers against buying cheap and dangerous whiskey.”
He said Jameson Irish Whiskey has introduced security features on its bottles.
“There is a holographic sticker with a QR code and this sticker has a multi-colour holographic effect that cannot be easily replicated,” Chard said.
Among other security features on the bottle are a transparent seal with the Jameson logo and a clear white sticker “reminding you to drink responsibly.”
Musician EX-Q has also been roped into the #BuyOriginal campaign.
“Ex-Q is one of the country’s most decorated, respected and talented artistes,” said Chard.
“He has been one of our key influencers from the beginning of the #BuyOriginal campaign three years ago.
“He has always been a Jameson drinker so the partnership made sense and has consistently used his influence and audience to promote the Jameson brand and spread awareness about the dangers of illicit alcohol.”
A blend master with a local brand manufacturing company said fake alcohol was not safe.
“This alcohol is intense with no monitoring, which makes it toxic,” he said.
“One pointer of fake whiskey or brand is the smell and the different levels of the bottled substance because it is done by hand unlike in a manufacturing plant.”
He said other pointers of fake alcohol would include unfamiliar brand names and logos, spelling mistakes as well as very low prices which are “too good to be true”.
The blend master said it was not safe for someone to drink a bottle-and-a-half of whiskey in 24 hours as this could cause immediate damage to the liver that could be lethal.
Health expert and medical doctor Johannes Marisa said most illicit substances, especially fake alcohol contain harmful and toxic ingredients.
“Some ingredients like methanol can lead to blindness and cause health problems, and are often lethal,” Marisa said.
He said ammonium nitrate when swallowed in high concentration may cause a lot of health repercussions including headache, dizziness, abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and weakness, among others.
The WHO estimates that alcohol kills three million people throughout the world every year.
In other words, alcohol is the cause of 5.3% of all human deaths annually.