Rice wine operations in Kratie province have been shut down indefinitely with immediate effect after a toxic batch recently killed several people and hospitalised others.
Kratie provincial industry and handicraft department head Ny Chhun said the objective of the move is to reduce the harm on consumers’ health.
Statistics revealed by local authorities said only some 10% of the 761 breweries in Kratie province have been registered legally. The rest are unlicensed family operations.
“To prevent the spread of toxic rice wine, our experts decided to temporarily halt production and distribution. Consuming rice wine will be forbidden in the province,” Chhun said.
However, he did not say exactly when the breweries will be reopened or when production and distribution of rice wine in the province will resume.
Chhun only said that during this period, experts will educate people about the law and some technical standards related to rice wine brewery and operations.
“The prohibition on production, distribution and consumption of rice wine is indefinite. This means the measure is effective until the toxic rice wine case has ended. It will not last long,” he said.
However, some local brewers and vendors who have adhered to the law and technical standards said the prohibition affects their income.
They say the authorities have proof that the toxic rice wine in Boeung Cha and Koh Knhae commune, in Sambo district, contained high methanol levels and that it was brewed by Koch Sok Heng.
Sok Heng’s product was seized and impounded by the Kratie provincial industry and handicraft department as evidence, so the other brewers ask why the authorities are prohibiting those that have adhered to proper production standards?
Tor Sochan, 27, a brewer in Boeung Knhae commune, Sambo district, told The Post that the prohibition should be applied only to untrained and unlicensed brewery owners. Brewers that respect the law, he said, should be exempted.
“I have been running this brewery for four years after completing my training and receiving the license from Kratie provincial authorities. I think the ban affects the business and my family income,” Sochan said.
Sochan said his rice wine is produced from 100% rice and will not affect the health of consumers.
Another vendor who asked to remain anonymous said she learned brewing skills from her father for about 10 years and has a license issued by Kratie provincial authorities to run a rice wine business.
The 29-year-old said when a toxic rice wine case occured, the authorities immediately banned production, which is the right thing to do.
But, when the authorities investigate and identify the source, she said they should lift the ban while at the same time, taking legal action against the culprits.