Trade Ministry, UNBS ban Arua’s Adulterated Gin

Bottles of the city 5 gin which was suspected to have caused the death in Arua

By Timothy Eodu

The Ministry of Trade Industry and Cooperatives and Uganda National Bureau of Standards-UNBS have banned the importation, manufacture, sale and distribution of City 5 Gin that led to the death of over a dozen people in Arua district and left some survivors with the risk of going blind.

“In exercising its mandate of Promoting and Enforcing National Standards in order to Protect the Safety and Health of the Public against Consumption of Harmful and Substandard Products on the Market, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) prohibits the importation, manufacture, sale, distribution or holding for the purpose of selling any product that does not conform with the Compulsory Uganda Standards, read a statement by UNBS in part.”

The UNBS Enforcement Team traveled to Arua City on the 21st August, 2022 to establish the circumstances under which about 17 people who consumed a Local Gin known as City 5 reportedly died and others hospitalised with worrying health conditions after its consumption.

Part of the statement added that: “The Bureau joined the Uganda Police Force and Local Authorities to investigate the matter and in particular pick the necessary product Samples of the City 5 Gin for Laboratory Analysis in order to ascertain its contents and ingredients therein which could have caused the sudden death of its consumers.”

According to the Minister of State for Industry, David Bahati, Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), the enforcer of national standards of products has suspended the Arua-based Luluwiri Fruit Wine factory, the producers of the adulterated gin branded ‘City 5 Gin’ and subsequently arrested the manufacturers of the killer liquor.

Bahati said during plenary sitting on Thursday, 25 August 2022 that the suspects involved in the manufacture and sale of City 5 Gin have been arrested and are in custodyice Force. The Bureau has sealed off and suspended the production facilities where the adulterated gin was found until further notice,”.

Mr. David Livingstone Ebiru, the UNBS executive director  noted that it had certified Luluwiri Fruit Wine to produce Semi-Sweet Still Table Pineapple Wine after undergoing conformity assessment and that the same Luluwiri Fruit Wine had attempted to apply for certification of City 5 Pineapple Flavored Gin which failed Laboratory Analysis for having Low Alcohol Content which was below 37.5% volume required of a Gin as per specifications of the standard. Therefore, the City 5 Gin had not yet been certified by UNBS for conformity to the relevant standards and therefore should have not been in production and for sale to the public.

According to Ebiru, the Bureau together with Uganda Police inspected the Luluwiri Fruit Wine Factory and found Forty (40) unmarked drums containing Alcohol and Eight (8) filled jerrycans containing Alcohol. Eight (8) Samples were therefore picked from this for Laboratory Analysis by UNBS.

“UNBS also picked two (2) Samples from a nearby facility called Dbtech Enterprises which had also applied for certification of another Gin called A-City and found Six (6) unmarked drums containing Alcohol. UNBS had also not yet completed the conformity assessment for this product and is not allowed to be on the market, Ebiru added.”

RESULTS FROM LABORATORY ANALYSIS OF SAMPLES

The Sample picked by Uganda Police Force from the Kiosk where the product was being sold was found to have been adulterated with excessive levels of Methanol above the maximum limit of 50 miligrams per litre (mg/L) and had low levels of Ethanol below 37.5% mass per volume (v/v) specified in the Standard.

Five (5) Samples out of the Eight (8) picked from Luluwiri Fruit Wine were found to have been adulterated with excessive levels of Methanol above the maximum limit of 50 miligram per litre (mg/L) and had very low levels of Ethanol below 37.5% mass per volume (v/v) specified in the standard.

One (1) Sample out of the two (2) picked from Dbtech Enterprises was found to have been adulterated with excessive levels of Methanol above maximum limit of 50 miligrams per litre (mg/L) specified in the standard.

CONCLUSION

Based on results from the Laboratory Analysis, it is clear that the likely cause of death for the people who consumed the City 5 Gin was due to excessive adulteration of the Gin with Methanol which was found to be between 17 to 16,183 times far more higher than the permissible level of 50 miligrams per litre (mg/L) which is specified in the standard for Gin.

It is likely that the perpetuators deliberately and illegally used Methanol as a cheaper alternative to increase the potency of the City 5 Gin, instead of Ethanol which is commonly used in making Alcoholic Beverages. Unlike Ethanol, Methanol is poisonous for human consumption since is can easily be absorbed through the eyes, skin, lungs and digestive system with its over exposure causing death.

Methanol is an industrial chemical which is mostly used to create fuel and as a solvent, antifreeze or denaturant for ethanol and in synthesis of other chemicals, plastics, polyesters e.t.c. Methanol is also commonly used for diluting /dissolving Wall Paints and Wood Vanishes.

ACTIONS TAKEN AND TO BE TAKEN BY THE BUREAU

The suspects involved in the manufacture and sale of City 5 Gin have been arrested and are in custody of Uganda Police Force. The Bureau has sealed off and suspended the production facilities where Adulterated Gin was found until further notice. The Bureau has suspended the certification process of products from the suspected production facilities until further notice.

The Bureau has placed Advertisements in Local Radios in West Nile Region to caution people against consumption of City 5 Gin and other uncertified Beverages. It will intensify its enforcement activities on the market against producers of uncertified Alcoholic Beverage and other Consumer Products.

The Bureau has already established a Regional Office in Gulu with fully fledged Food Safety Testing Laboratories to provide quality assurance and conformity assessment of all products manufactured and produced in Northern and West Nile Regions.

The Bureau appeals to the Enterprises involved in the production, manufacturing, processing and value adding activities to voluntarily embrace application of Quality Standards in their businesses as part of their Social Responsibility of protecting the lives of Ugandans.

Uganda has very high alcohol consumption rates, with an estimated 9.5 liters of alcohol consumed per person over 15 years of age. This is drastically higher than the world consumption rate of alcohol (6.4 liters). Even so, epidemiologic research on alcohol use patterns in Uganda remains relatively scarce.

According to the Uganda National Housing Suvey2019/20, one in every ten persons (13%) aged 10 years and above consumed either alcohol, tobacco or drugs in 2019/20. Karamoja region had the highest percent at 50 percent while Busoga had the least at five percent.

 

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