Last update 1/8/2011 5:00:00 PM (GMT+7)

Fake alcohol erodes rural people’s stomach

Poor people, especially rural people, are drinking no-brand alcohol which they believe to be rice alcohol but they don’t know that they are consuming fake alcohol which is very harmful for your health. VietNamNet reports.

While writing this article, VietNamNet reporters saw Tung, an alcoholic, who told us about the village that processes fake alcohol – Dai Lam village in Yen Phong district, Hanoi’s neighboring province of Bac Ninh. There are several villages making fake alcohol but Dai Lam is the most “famous” among them.

Fake alcohol making techniques

The local media last year reported about the technique to produce faked alcohol as follows: “industrial alcohol + water + fragrances = rice alcohol”.

It is said that an alcohol producer in Dai Lam village was impatient to produce rice alcohol in the traditional procedures so he went to China to learn the technique to produce rice alcohol from dry alcohol.

As this technique brings about super-high profit, it was quickly expanded to the entire Dai Lam village and “killed” traditional rice alcohol making villages in northern Vietnam.

Another alcohol producer “invented” the second-generation technique – using industrial alcohol instead of dry alcohol. This technique was quickly favored by faked alcohol producers because it can further cut down the production costs while it is easier and faster to produce fake alcohol.

Accordingly, producers only need to mix industrial alcohol with water and the fragrances of cassava, rice or maize to produce faked cassava, rice or maize alcohol.

A short period after that, fake alcohol producers “upgraded” their technique by using fragrant alcohol to produce wine. Thus, they don’t need fragrances anymore, just fragrant alcohol and water as materials.

In Dai Lam village, the tools for producing fake alcohols are oil drums. Fake wine producers pump water into the oil drums to a certain level (they often use bamboo shoulder poles to measure water because drums are 1.5m high) and then pour alcohol into the oil drums. They use bamboo shoulder poles to stir alcohol and water. After half an hour, the solution of water and alcohol will become rice, cassava or maize alcohol, depending on the fragrances applied.

Thanks to this technique, alcohol makers can produce a cubic meter of alcohol within 30 minutes while with traditional method, it will take alcohol producer a whole week.

In Dai Lam village, traditional distilleries have disappeared since this technique was imported. The village now has a dozen of families producing fake alcohol. Each family can produce a daily volume of alcohol which is 3-4 folds more than the entire output of alcohol made by the whole village.

The industrial alcohol which is used to produce alcohol is highly-concentrated alcohol, which is from 90-90o. One liter of industrial alcohol is enough to process four liters of wine. However, this kind of wine will be spoiled after several months. That’s the only disadvantage of the technique.

“Even a child can produce alcohol with this technique. However, not everyone can become alcohol producer because the most important thing is the outlet. You can see some families in our village have villas and cars thanks to fake alcohol,” said Mrs. Dang, a tea seller in Dai Lam village.

Fake alcohol is rampant

Nguyen Van Tung from Binh Da village, Hanoi, an alcohol trader, told VietNamNet that rural restaurants and restaurants for workers and students often buy fake alcohol at the prices of VND3500-5000 ($0.17-0.2) a liter.

According to Tung, some people even make fake alcohol from pesticide or chemicals. “They only put one pill of chemical into water and shake the solution in several minutes to have alcohol,” Tung disclosed.

As the lunar New Year holiday is approaching, the market for wine has become very bustling. In cities, imported wine is favored but in the countryside, rice wine without brands is popular.

Nguyen Huu Thach, a rice wine producer in Thanh Oai district, Hanoi, said: “The need for wine is rising because this time is the wedding season (winter-spring). The demand will increase by 4-5 folds from now to the lunar New Year”.

Thach said that his distillery is now very busy with orders for wedding parties. A wedding often needs 70-80 liters of rice wine, at the price of VND28,000-30,000 ($1.4-1.5) a liter.

He complained that his business is now fiercely competing with fake wine. “Customers can’t identify fake alcohol,” he said.

The owner of a snail-wine restaurant in Hoai Duc district, Hanoi told VietNamNet: “Last month a young man came here to offer me to purchase his rice wine at only VND500 ($0.025) a liter. What a dirty price!”

“Opening the lid, I was nearly fainted because of the smell of alcohol. I’ve sold wine for nearly a decade so I’m experienced enough to identify real rice wine and fake wine. This kind of wine will become water thirty minutes after you pour it a glass,” he added.

Who cares?

Nguyen Van Quy, chief police officer of Tam Da commune, Hanoi said that many families in his commune have produced fake wine for several years to earn large profits. Local residents have reported these cases to the local authorities.

According to Quy, around 200-800 households in Tam Da produce alcohol, depending on the market demand. Many of them make fake wine, using industrial alcohol sourced from China or the central Vietnam.

With hundreds of thousands of liters of fake wine from Tam Da, many people are in danger.

Nguyen Trong Hoi, Chair of Van Ha commune in Viet Yen district, Bac Giang province, the neighbor commune of Tam Da, said: “Fake wine is very dangerous for health but local authorities are incompetent to close such distilleries. We don’t know where they sell this kind of wine”.

In Van village, which is very famous for its traditional rice and cassava wine, wine is still processed by traditional methods but the wine is not safe at all.

VietNamNet reporters saw cassavas being dried on the village road. The material is bought from mountainous provinces and it was very moldy, looking like animal feed. A local explained that moldy cassava will whiten before it is fermented.

Local people also told VietNamNet about the terrible fermenting process: they use Chinese ferments to dust on rice or cassava, which is soaked in water already. Thanks to the special ferments, they don’t need to cook rice or cassava to have alcohol.

Dr. To Van Nhat, General director and Vice Chair of the Avinaa Alcohol Plant, said wine that is processed by traditional methods at craft villages contain toxic substances because traditional methods can’t filter toxic matters (ester, aldehyde, methanol, furferol, etc.) from wine. Traditional alcohol processed from fermented rice, cassava, maze, etc. contain toxic substances at the rate of 50 to over 100 times over permitted thresholds.

Hoa Thuy Tien