A call for restriction on the sales of Australian staple Vegemite is reportedly on the cards if Australia’s Indigenous Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion, has his way.
The minister has announced that he will be promoting the restriction of Vegemite sales, in some remote communities – to prevent the yeast-based spread being used to make alcohol motivating his stance by saying that the sandwich spread was a “precursor to misery” in communities suffering from alcohol abuse.
He said he was not proposing a ban but wanted to restrict excessive sales of high-yeast products such as Vegemite in “dry” communities, which would refer to remote Aboriginal townships where alcohol sales are banned.
“Addiction of any type is a concern but communities, especially where alcohol is banned, must work to ensure home brewing of this type does not occur,” said Scullion.
“The government is not seeking to place any restrictions on Vegemite or any other yeast product that may be used in home brew in remote communities … Businesses in these communities also have a responsibility to report any purchase that may raise their own suspicions.”
The spread has been reportedly been linked to at least one death in 2010 involving excessive consumption of a Vegemite-based home-brew.
Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, said he did not support a “Vegemite watch” and wanted to avoid excessive regulation of people’s lives.
“The last thing I want to do is have a Vegemite watch,” he said.
“Vegemite, quite properly, is for most people a reasonably nutritious spread on your morning toast or on your sandwiches.”
Aboriginal health organisations and police representatives have warned that residents of dry communities have used Vegemite to make home-brew alcohol. Young children have reportedly been consuming home brew alcohol with orange juice and have been too hung over to attend school.
“In indigenous communities I have seen alcohol brewed from many things such as Vegemite,” Ian Leavers, from the police union, told the Courier-Mail newspaper.
“While we cannot just go out and ban everything that could possibly be used to make illegal alcohol, at the same time common sense needs to take place and if people are purchasing large quantities of an item that could be used for brewing illegal alcohol, questions should always be asked,” said Scullion as he has begun consulting with community leaders and local stores about efforts to restrict sales of precursors to the production of alcohol.