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Cheers to a safe and accountable alcohol market

LUSAKA, ZAMBIA – Zambian Breweries has applauded the implementation of the Compulsory Standards (Potable Spirits) (Declaration) Order, 2020 under Statutory Instrument No. 18 (2020). The landmark SI prescribes minimum safety requirements regarding sampling and testing methods for ethanol from fermentation intended for direct human consumption. According to the recent 2021 Economic Impact and Excise Tax Analysis report by Ernst & Young and commissioned by Zambian Breweries, 83 percent of spirits (liquor) brands sold on the Zambian market do not conform to set safety standards.

Zambian Breweries Corporate Affairs Director Ezekiel Sekele noted that having industry safety standards ratified by appropriate legislation was critical to ensuring accountability from brewers thus helping to safeguard consumers’ health. “Zambian Breweries commends Government for setting up measures and institutions to help create a healthy alcohol market that contributes to the betterment of communities and the country,” he said. “Our goal as a manufacturer of alcoholic beverages is to produce quality drinks that are not only safe for our consumers but also contribute to the economic prosperity of Zambia through exports.” Mr Sekele explained that consumption of illegally produced and unregulated spirits posed a serious public health threat because illegal brewers often used inferior or even toxic ingredients to cut costs. “Since the brands are unregulated, it is very easy for consumers to suffer from alcohol poisoning because the true alcohol content in these spirits is unknown.” “A classic example is that of the influx of the notorious pocket-sized hard liquors popularly known as ‘Tujilijili’ or Junta, which have been known to cause serious health problems for consumers with several fatalities recorded over the last decade.”

An analysis of random Junta samples in Zambian Breweries’ specialist laboratories found that none of the brands randomly selected from retailers met the minimum quality specifications outlined by government regulation nor did their alcohol content match what had been claimed on the package. Mr Sekele emphasised that companies in the food and beverage industry had a moral obligation to adhere to set standards of production and quality control. He commended government for promoting a safe and healthy environment for adults who choose to drink by establishing the Zambia Compulsory Standards Agency and the enactment of SI No. 18 of 2020. Aside from high levels of hygiene during the brewing process, one of the most notable guidelines introduced by the SI includes an ethyl alcohol content between 34 percent and 55 percent by volume at 20 °C (when determined according to AOAC Method 957.03.) for all portable spirits – effectively making any spirits with excessive alcohol content illegal. Zambian Breweries produces clear beer with low alcohol percentage of between 3 to 6 percent in conformity with Zambia’s production and quality standards.

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