No Sachet Waragi consumed in Acoli is safe, says new study

A new scientific study in a US journal has found that sachet waragi consumed in Acoli has dangerously high quantities of heavy metals posing a danger to public health

A newly published scientific paper on the risks posed by consumption of satchet waragi has found that ‘‘no alcohol consumed in Acoli is safe’’.

The study titled: ‘‘Assessing the health risks of consuming ‘sachet’ alcohol in Acoli, Uganda’’ was published in a US- based journal, PLOS ONE, on February 27, 2019.

On its website, PLOS ONE describes itself as a ‘‘the world’s first multidisciplinary Open Access journal’’ publishing ‘‘scientifically rigorous research’’.

The paper on sachet Waragi was authored by Dr Ochan Otim, a chemist affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles, United States of America, Tom Juma a Chemist affiliated with the Environmental Monitoring Division, Los Angeles, California, and Dr Olara Otunnu, a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The paper sought to ‘‘assess the health risk associated with consuming heavy metal contaminated alcoholic products sold to the former internment camp residences’’.

Further,  the paper aimed at ‘‘…investigation…the link between alcohol consumption and health risk in Uganda in general and Acoli region in particular’’.

It investigated 13 brands of 100-mL sachet-packaged spirits which included: Big 5 Vodka, Beckham Spirit, Bond 7 Whisky, Brigade Spirit and Chief Waragi Spirit.

Duplicates of spirits sampled a year later included Goal Vodka, Kick Spirit Pineapple Waragi, Relax, Royal Vodka, Salongo Spirit, Uganda Waragi and V6 Tangawizi Vodka.

Also studied included locally brewed alcohol—lira- Lira whose samples were picked from Bolo, Awere in Omoro district, Teso Bar in Lira district and Nsambya police barracks in Kampala.

Alcohol in larger bottles were not investigated.

A Scottish Whisky purchased in San Diego, California, was used as a ‘‘certified reference material.’’

Findings

The study found that satchet Waragi sampled had high levels of heavy metals such as copper which pose a health risk to consumers.

‘‘The fact that all 20 selected heavy metals were detected in the Ugandan spirits confirms our suspicion that not only are heavy metals being consumed in the Acoli region in large amounts overtime, but that toxic bioaccumulations are taking place in the region with serious consequences,’’ the study states.

‘‘To our knowledge, this is the first approach of its kind to focus on addressing a root cause of alcohol-related death at the local level in a sub-Sahara African country. We find that consuming sachet packaged spirits in Uganda over a lifetime correlates with pronounced health risks in the Acoli population of Uganda.’’

The researchers, however, found that Uganda Waragi and Bond 7, both made by East African Breweries Limited had the lowest detectable levels of metals. Similarly, Uganda Waragi and Bond 7 were also found to have low-levels of metals. With the exception of high levels of copper, Lira- Lira was also found to have lowest detectable metals.

Nevertheless, the study still concludes that: ‘‘collectively, we find that no amount of alcohol consumed in Acoli is safe.’’

The study recommends preventive measures such as public education, better public policies, creating productive economic activities other than brewing alcohol, and social activities that engage people away from drinking.

In January 2016 Gulu district passed the Gulu Alcoholic Drinks Control Ordinance. The bylaw was launched in November of the same year.

The ordinance was passed to regulate the production, sale and consumption of sachet Waragi below 250mls due to its dangers to public health and economic productivity.