The National – Tuesday, November 30, 2010
By ALISON ANIS
WITH Christmas approaching fast, revellers and keen consumers of the locally-brewed “coffee punch” should think twice before buying them, Health Minister Sasa Zibe warned yesterday.
He told reporters that he would ensure the products were not processed or sold in shops because they contained very high methanol chemical which was harmful to the body, even fatal.
Zibe said methanol was a clear colourless flammable liquid with slight alcoholic smell frequently used in production of paints, solvents and vanishes, and consuming it can lead to serious health impairments, such as headaches, dizziness, vomiting feelings, damage to brains and nerve.
Other symptoms included leg cramps, blindness, abdominal cramping, speaking problems, fainting breathing problems, asthma symptoms, lethargy, confusion, joint aches and lower back pains.
He told a meeting of the alcohol task force at Lamana Hotel, Port Moresby, he was taking necessary steps to ban the sale coffee punch products because information on its label regarding alcohol content was misleading and hence did not meet current regulations.
“It was brought to my attention that certain concerns on alcohol products sold on shelves in PNG have not complied with government regulations. These products are trading under the name of vanilla and coffee punch,” he said.
Zibe said he had taken the steps as part of his commitment to the PNG Health Strategy 2011-20 which had priorities to reduce the harmful use of alcohol in PNG.
“As the minister responsible I will make sure that product, coffee and vanilla punch is not produced here in PNG,” he stated.
The minister had highlighted several issues which arose as part of the non-compliance.
He said: “The volume of alcohol content indicated on the label is well below the actual level as shown by independent analysis thus misleading the IRC on the exercise tax payable.
The result shows alcohol content to be more than 54%.
“The analysis further shows a very high content of methanol amounting to 47.9 mg/l which has the potential to cause blindness and death.”
Zibe also argued that the labelling on packaging calling it “punch” creates the perception that was made from locally grown fruit when it is “actually flavoured with coffee and vanilla essence.”
“This deception contravenes labeling requirements,” he said.
The minister added: “Certain villages and organisations have written to his ministry one the consequences that have arisen from the consumption of the stated products which have caused public nuisances and major health complications.”
This is a double blow to the manufacturers of locally brewed punch drink who were also slapped with increase in tax payable in approved recently in 2011 budget.