The Sunday Mail
DECEMBER marks the start of the holiday season, and, as is customary, alcohol consumption will rise during the next few weeks.
Regrettably, those involved in the production or sale of counterfeit alcoholic beverages will be out to make a killing, taking advantage of imbibers’ quest to quench their thirst.
As reported by The Sunday Mail Society recently, these fake alcoholic products — which are sold cheaply — have flooded the market.
In fact, counterfeit alcohol is now part of a multi-million-dollar industry as its supply has become so widespread that many unsuspecting drinkers are consuming it without even knowing it is fake.
However, this poses serious health risks to the drinkers as counterfeit drinks have been proven to cause multiple short-term and long-term illnesses.
Research has shown that risks associated with drinking fake alcoholic brands include alcohol poisoning, cancer, liver disease, hormone imbalances, loss of hair and even death.
Some of the alcoholic brands that have been affected by counterfeits are Jameson Irish Whiskey, Two Keys and Bols Brandy. Wines, especially those that come in five-litre containers, such as Namaqua, are also being imitated.
Other illicit alcoholic drinks, commonly known as “Tumbwa”, are also being manufactured in homes and makeshift factories.
Investigations reveal that most knock-offs are seldom sold in established giant retail outlets that have reputable suppliers.
Challenges, however, arise when one acquires whiskies from places like nightclubs, bottle stores and liquor shops — especially the unlicensed ones that are mushrooming all over the country — or from car boot vendors.
Most imbibers interviewed by this publication showed concern.
“Personally, I do not know how to tell the difference between an original and a fake whisky. However, I have over the years noticed that I get different hangovers from my preferred whisky; sometimes it is severe,” said Pardon Dhliwayo.
As counterfeits flood the market, distributors of the genuine brands are stepping up a campaign on how the public can distinguish originals from the imitations.
Delta’s general manager (corporate affairs) Patricia Murambinda said their lager and opaque brands are “safe” from the counterfeiting cartels. She said they are, however, worried about the other brands.
“The lager and opaque beer brands have not been affected by counterfeit versions but ciders, wines and spirits have.
“As Delta, we will continue to manufacture and distribute our products in accordance with the stipulated laws and standards of the country,” she told The Sunday Mail Society last week.
Zimbabwe’s official distributor of Jameson Irish Whiskey, Bullred Distribution, last week said they had started ratcheting up their campaign to help consumers to distinguish its genuine brand from the fakes.
A couple of years ago, there were reports that a man from one of Harare’s leafy suburbs died after complications related to consuming fake Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Bullred Distribution said they first launched their “#BuyOriginal” campaign in 2021. They are now stepping it up during the festive season.
“This year, we have introduced a few security features for all our bottles of Jameson.
“We have now added a holographic sticker with a QR code. This new sticker has a multi-colour holographic effect that cannot easily be replicated.
“It also has a QR code that will take consumers to a landing page that can authenticate if their bottle is original.”
The distributor said, in addition to the sticker, the original product has various other security features, including a clear plastic seal with the product’s logo on the neck of the bottle.
“There is also the white ‘Drink Responsibly’ sticker on the side of the bottle and embossed text on the label sticker of the bottle. Consumers should also know that our beverage is not made with any sugars. So, it should not streak when placed in a glass and if a consumer dips their fingers in a glass of Jameson Whiskey, they should not feel sticky. Also, they should be wary of any Jameson being sold for prices that are below the US$25 to US$30 range,” Bullred Distribution said.
President of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Denford Mutashu urged law-enforcement agents to carry out blitzes against counterfeits.
“Retailers, wholesalers and all liquor outlets should closely work with health authorities and enforcement agencies in the fight against counterfeit alcoholic beverages that pose great danger to people’s health,” he said.
On its part, Government is intensifying monitoring and investigations through the Consumer Protection Commission, among other bodies, to curb the manufacturing and distribution of knock-offs.