Locally brewed gin also known as Ogogoro is a popular drink among the poor and rural dwellers because it is cheap and within reach. But recent deaths associated with the drink raises concern on the need to adequately regulate its brewing process. In April this year at least 18 persons died in Irele Local Government Area of Ondo State after consuming quantities of Ogogoro. The strange deaths were initially attributed to pesticide poisoning but a laboratory test result later revealed that the 18 persons died of methanol poisoning.
Barely two months after that incident, a similar one occurred in some local communities in Rivers State. In this case, at least 38 persons were reported to have died after drinking the illicit gin. Health authorities have predicted that the death toll in the recent incident is expected to rise in the coming weeks.
Until recently, the consumption of locally brewed gin has been an age long tradition among local communities. Most notable traditional occasions like marriages, festivals, chieftaincy coronation, etc. are usually incomplete without Ogogoro on offer. Most local residents prefer the locally brewed gin to the refined industrial brewed ones. Some even prefer the highly concentrated one called ‘Sapele Water’ found mostly in the Niger Delta region. To date, Ogogoro remains a preferred gin among dwellers in the riverine communities in the country.
Although Ogogoro is brewed locally through a simple process of alcohol fermentation, there has been very few cases before now of people dying after consuming the drink. The usual case has always been individuals dying from illness related to regular consumption of the drink. Be that as it may, the recent deaths attributed to consumption of the drink call to question the brewing process adopted by local brewers.
In this time and age, we believe that whatever is meant for mass consumption should never be subjected to an unhealthy process. Local brewers must adopt acceptable and hygienic ways of preparing gin. The recent deaths in Ondo and Rivers go to show the ugly implication of continuing to brew gin using outdated brewing process.
As expected, the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has said it would immediately commence a nationwide confiscation and destruction of unregistered locally produced gin, bitters and other illegally brewed alcoholic beverages. The Director-General of NAFDAC, Dr Paul Orhii, said the agency’s decision was aimed at containing the increasing number of deaths caused by the consumption of the drink.
Orhii said that high concentration of methanol in the local gin (Ogogoro) was unwholesome and unfit for human consumption hence the need for Nigerians to avoid it. He ruled out any possibility of deliberate intent to take a life, stressing that methanol toxicity could be caused by over fermentation or over concentration of the drink by their producers.
We commend NAFDAC’s effort in this direction as this will go along way in mopping up some of the deadly gin that may still be on sale nationwide. Beyond this we call on the agency to engage the local gin brewers in order to train them in the latest brewing processes.
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