, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 14 – At least 78 manufacturing lines of alcoholic beverages have now been closed down by the government following the recent spate of deaths occasioned by the consumption of drinks laced with methanol.
Speaking to reporters following the death of seven people in Eldoret, Interior Principal Secretary Mutea Iringo said over 3,000 assorted brands have also been collected for testing.
Iringo pointed out that all unauthorised operators will be closed down and stated that methanol will now be gazetted as a dangerous product to facilitate its inclusion in the list of hazardous substances.
“When the profiling is completed, we will close all unauthorised operators. Joint inspection, sampling and testing of over 200 manufacturers has been carried out by KEBS, Government and Public Health through coordination by NACADA, and 78 lines (brands) have been closed,” the PS explained.
Among those who died in Eldoret included a Form One student, according to police and medical personnel who say several others are admitted to hospital.
Most of those who died were taken to hospital from Huruma, Langas and Maili Nne estates after consuming the brew believed to have been laced with a high methanol concentration.
A top medical official at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital where most of the patients are admitted says two of them are in a critical condition.
The deaths came after 12 other people, including an Assistant Chief died in Kapsabet after consuming toxic brew said to have been sourced from Uganda.
Iringo indicated that an Inter-agency Committee has established the source of the killer brew as the 20,000 litres of methanol auctioned at Kilindini Port on 18th March 2014 and collected in April 2014.
He pointed out that the Kenya Revenue Authority, the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (NACADA) and police are tracing the distribution.
“NACADA has established a crisis response centre with a toll free NO. 1192 for Kenyans to report to NACADA any information on illegal alcohol business or any deaths or injury caused by alcohol. So far, the authority has received over 3,336 reports and acted on 2,500. The centre has also improved its reporting of incidents of alcohol related offenses and cooperation between the Police and NACADA,” he said.
He revealed that methanol has also been added to the list of goods that are subjected to pre-export verification of conformity and stated that this will facilitate monitoring and surveillance of methanol in the market.
“Consultations are also going on with stakeholders to ban re-filling of alcoholic drinks in used bottles and to put in place a mechanism for recycling crashed bottles. We also intend to hold regular meetings between the regulatory agencies, manufacturers and importers of alcoholic drinks to review developments and challenges in the industry,” he said.
The National Campaign Against Drug Abuse chairman John Mututho stated that plans are underway to strengthen laws imposing hefty fines and jail sentences to those producing illicit brew.
“One of the legislation is the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill which is now going for the third reading and this seeks to strengthen the relationship between the National government and the county governments. The main suggestion is that there is need for NACADA as a body to be looked at again,” he stated.