The security team in Isiolo has closed down more than 50 wines and spirits outlets following last Sunday’s incident where seven people died and three were hospitalised after taking adulterated liquor in Oldonyiro.
The liquor was allegedly bought in Lodukoe on the Isiolo-Samburu border before it was distributed to Oldonyiro and Longopito in Kipsing.
A multi-agency team of police, Kenya Revenue Authority and Kenya Bureau of Standards officers has been cracking down on outlets selling counterfeit liquor to weed out unscrupulous operators and remove substandard and unsafe alcoholic drinks.
Isiolo sub-county Police Commander Collins Sainna said one person who consumed a bottle of the liquor in Oldonyiro on Wednesday lost his sight and was rushed to Isiolo Referral Hospital, where three other victims were admitted.
“The man had bought a carton of the liquor in Oldonyiro and intended to sell it. He started complaining that he could not see after taking a bottle,” Mr Sainna said.
Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the sale of the liquor and nine of the 24 cartons sold in the area were seized by the team.
Mr Sainna said the team was looking for the remaining liquor before it was consumed.
“We appeal to business people who might have bought the drinks to surrender them to police because consuming them is disastrous and the public to share information on where it is being manufactured,” he noted.
The drinks – labelled Trace and Smart Vodka – are counterfeits of original brands sold under those names and the bottles have counterfeit stickers, police said.
To evade arrest, it was established, dealers sell the liquor in remote areas where unsuspecting patrons cannot detect whether it is original or counterfeit. The liquor is sold at slightly higher than half the price.
Police sources told the Nation that traders found with the drinks claimed to have bought them from authorised dealers in Isiolo town, in apparent attempts to conceal information on the location of the distilling plant.
“We suspect the drinks are being manufactured and packaged in neighbouring Meru County before being distributed to off-town areas in Isiolo,” said an officer, who did not want to be named.
Addressing journalists at his office in Isiolo town, Mr Sainna said closing the wines and spirits was not to hurt businesses but to ensure they are compliant.
“We are not opposed to anyone’s business and we want them to work within the confines of the law and purchase products from certified manufacturers for public safety,” he stressed.
He appealed to Isiolo MCAs to fast-track an alcohol control bill, saying it would help in enforcement, regulating the sale of alcoholic drinks and taming illicit brews.
“Lack of an existing law is the main challenge in enforcement and having it in place would help regulate mushrooming liquor outlets,” he said.
He said the crackdown will be sustained in line with an earlier executive order issued by former President Uhuru Kenyatta.