IN SHORT: Counterfeit liquor can be deadly, and is illegally produced in South Africa. But a social message warning of the dangers of these “fake alcoholic beverages” uses photos of police raids elsewhere on the continent.
The first shows a man in a suit and glasses holding up a sheet of printed Jack Daniels whisky labels. A truck is behind him. Another is of a large bucket filled with a dark liquid. In a third, a man and woman stand in a room with bottles and boxes of liquor around them.
The rest of the photos show an array of bottles, buckets and boxes.
Illegally manufactured or counterfeit alcohol has been reported in South Africa. It’s cheaper than the real stuff, but it can be extremely dangerous. That’s because a cheaper and highly toxic form of alcohol called methanol is often added to the drink.
Methanol is an industrial solvent used in antifreeze, paint thinners and varnish. Even in small amounts it can cause blindness, coma and death. In 2022, methanol was found in the blood of 21 teenagers who had died mysteriously in a tavern in the South African city of East London.
The alcohol in legal liquor is ethanol, which is not poisonous in reasonable quantities.
But do the photos really show a counterfeit liquor operation in South Africa?
Adulterated alcohol seized in Ivory Coast
A Google reverse image search of the first photo led us to other instances of the claim, all from February 2023. One is on a news blog that said the photos were taken in Kenya. Another is a now-private Reddit post claiming they were snapped in Nigeria. A Facebook message claims they’re from Zambia.
The article is a press release from the country’s trade and industry ministry. A machine translation of it reads: “The subdirectorate for the repression of fraud of the ministry in charge of trade and industry proceeded, this Thursday, February 9, 2023, to a significant seizure of bottles of adulterated alcohol in Anyama.” Anyama lies just north of Ivory Coast’s capital, Abidjan.
A look at the rest of the article’s photos indicates that they were most probably taken in Ivory Coast, and certainly not in the countries of South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria or Zambia, where English is more widely spoken than French.
- In another photo of the man in a suit, a man standing behind him wears the distinctive blue-striped camouflage uniform of Ivory Coast’s national gendarmerie, a military force with policing duties.
- The truck behind the man bears the word “transporteur”, French for transport. Labels for the counterfeit liquor use “rhum”, French for rum.
- A satellite dish for Canal+ is seen in yet another photo of the man in a suit. In Africa, this France-based pay-TV broadcaster is only available in French-speaking countries, including Ivory Coast.
So three of the claim’s photos come from Ivory Coast. What about the rest?
Fake liquor factory in Cameroon
According to the reports, a police patrol led to the discovery of an illegal counterfeit liquor factory in a warehouse in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital. They reportedly found a barrel of ethanol, labels for counterfeit alcohol, caps, dyes, adulterated champagne and cannabis. A man and woman were arrested.
Three of the photos were taken in Ivory Coast, and two in Cameroon. Africa Check could not determine the origin of the remaining three photos, but also found no evidence they were taken in South Africa.
We rate the claim as false.
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