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SA Medical Research Council: Underground market alcohol can be lethal

Liquor brands never seen before are being illegally sold in the country without passing any of the specified liquor standards.

© viteethumb/123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Medical Research Council has warned residents against the consumption of illegal alcohol from the underground market.

Government re-introduced a ban on alcohol sales in a bid to slow down the spread of COVID-19. The first booze ban was lifted on 1 June last year after more two months under the hard lockdown.

But the blanket ban on booze announced in late December has spurred on a new threat to the industry and the health of many South Africans.

READ: Alcohol industry concerned about rise of illicit trade

Liquor brands never seen before are being illegally sold in the country without passing any of the specified liquor standards.

Another illicit alcohol practice is to refill used, branded bottles with counterfeit alcohol and sell them to consumers.

The council’s director of the alcohol, tobacco & other drug research unit, Charles Parry, said illegal alcohol was often produced on an industrial scale and could cause severe health problems.

"A particularly worrisome ingredient used in black market alcohol is methanol. This is industrial alcohol. Methanol can metabolise as highly toxic compounds, which can result in blindness, coma and even death," he said.

READ: WC health dept: Trauma-related cases on NYE dropped by 65% due to alcohol ban

Hospitals attribute their relieved trauma units to the alcohol ban, saying they received fewer cases of alcohol-related injuries, with Chris Hani Baragwanath reporting no casualties for the first time ever over new year’s eve and day. The Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal also reported significant drops in trauma cases over the usually busy period.

ALSO READ: After Bara's good news, KZN hospitals also report fewer new year's trauma cases

The medical council’s warning came days after armed criminals made off with thousands of branded alcohol bottle caps from a production facility in Durban.

Authorities believe the caps are likely to be used to seal fake alcohol.

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