Increasing numbers of illicit and illegal alcoholic beverages a threat to human health, security and the economy, consumer lobby says

Increasing numbers of illicit and illegal alcoholic beverages a threat to human health, security and the economy, consumer lobby says

Politics and corruption to blame for increased number of in illicit alcohol and beverages, Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK) have said.

Addressing a press conference on drastic increase in fake and unlicensed alcoholic drinks product in the country, Cofek Secretary General Stephen Mutoro said the swelling numbers of illegal alcohol exposes Kenyans to health risks.

In the quest to make quick money, Mutoro said producers of illicit brews are spiking their backyard brews with deadly industrial chemicals such as methanol, food grade ethanol, and sisal juice or jet fuel, to make them more potent and more desirable to consumers.

“While the illicit alcohol causes health hazards, illegal business significantly hurts the economy. Such illegal business robs the country of young people who could otherwise engage in meaningful productive economic activities,” he said.

An estimated 4 million Kenyans countrywide are currently consuming illicit brews.

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Mutoro disclosed that an estimated 14,000 young people die each year from complications related to consuming illegally brewed alcohol.

Further, more victims are currently suffering permanent defects resulting from second generation alcoholic drinks. It is instructive to note that with a comprehensive research, the numbers of victims could rise.

“Surging numbers of illegal alcohol manufacturers are exposing millions of Kenyan consumers to health risks such as substance poisoning. It is the poorest of the poor in society who provide an immediate market for the uninspected alcoholic beverages which often contain lethal compounds,” he lamented.

The Consumers Federation of Kenya said it had received reports from various distributors and distillers across the country, who have raised valid concerns about some of their popular brands being illegally repackaged and sold to unsuspecting consumers by unscrupulous traders.

The lobby noted that sachets and unapproved brands are sold directly to retailers.

“Unscrupulous alcohol traders have been counterfeiting KEBS quality marks by using already used bottles of established manufacturers to package their illicit products,” Mutoro reckoned.

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According to COFEK, among the illegally repackaged products being sold are brands like Metropolitan Gin; Kingston Vodka; Simba Waragi; Shakers Vodka; Dolphin Vodka; Empire Cane Spirit, among others.

“Over 50 percent of all alcoholic outlets in Kenya sell fake or adulterated products to unsuspecting clients. More than 900 unlicensed factories in the country that manufacture these brews,” he said.

The lobby group lamented that the spike in production and consumption of illicit alcohol has been fuelled by individuals who seem to be colluding with corrupt law-enforcing officers to facilitate the peddling of substances that do not meet the standards required by law.

It held that the unlawful trade is robbing the country over Sh30 billion in annual revenue.

“Illicit dealers do not pay tax at all yet they shrink revenues of those who genuinely pay taxes,” Cofek said.

“Simply put, the increasing numbers of illicit and illegal alcoholic beverages is a threat to human health, security and the economy,” they added.

They urged Nacada and County governments to step up their efforts and more to curb illicit brews.

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