Translated from #FaaSamoa. The Samoa Police have launched an investigation into banned alcohol products found to have been sold in local stores in recent weeks.
Deputy Police Commissioner Papalii Monalisa Tiai-Keti told media that products such as rice vodka re-emerged in stores during the recent festive season where demand for alcohol peaked.
“The decision of the Alcohol Control Board was very clear with regards to these products found to contain high levels of methanol,” said Papalii.
“So we are surprised to see these banned products back on the shelves.”
Papalii is referring to a decision made in April 2022 announced by Deputy Prime Minister Hon Tuala Tevaga Ponifasio who is also the Chair of Samoa’s Alcohol Control Board.
At the time, Tuala said Samoa’s Scientific Research Oganisation (SROS) had tested locally produced vodka, and found the products to have contained dangerously high levels of methanol.
“With the exception of Taula and Vailima who have their own labs and adhere with international standards of processing, all other manufacturers failed to comply with many areas of minimum standards imposed,” said Tuala.
The Deputy Prime Minster explained at the time that locally produced vodka is primarily made of water and ethanol with traces of flavourings. He said the imported ethanol used by local manufacturers has an Alcohol by Volume (ABV) of 95%.
Manufacturers then try to dilute this ethanol, to ensure the alcohol volume is at or below the 49% ceiling imposed by Samoa regulations, Tuala had explained.
Bottles were found to be unlabeled, and without a transparent list of alcohol content or product ingredients.
Two years prior to the ban, in November 2020, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren had highlighted the dangers of locally produced vodka, and called for authorities to take tighter controls and raise public awareness of its impacts.
In handing down the sentence of four youth for causing the death of a 38-year-old father after a drinking session at Samalaeulu, Justice Tafaoimalo reiterated concerns raised by Samoa’s then Police Commissioner Su’a Egon Keil on the links between locally produced vodka and the commission of crimes.
“The unnecessary loss of life in this case is tragic and incalculable. The loss of liberty for these four young defendants is tragic for their respective families,” said Justice Tuala-Warren had said at the time.
“This case brings to the fore yet again the dangers of excess alcohol consumption of locally produced Rover vodka for which there is insufficient public awareness..
“The relevant authorities are encouraged to address the issue of locally produced vodka as it has featured largely in offending behavior which has come before the Courts”, added Tafaoimalo.
Many more serious alcohol related crimes involving youth and drink-ups gone wrong occurred between 2020 and 2022, when the ban was finally imposed by the current Deputy Prime Minister.