Chang’aa Culture and Process: Detecting Contamination in a Killer Brew
Kelly Carey, Joanna Kinney, Molly Eckman, Abdalla Nassar, and Khankan Mehta
Humanitarian Technology: Science, Systems and Global Impact Conference
Carey, K., Kinney, J., Eckman, M., Nassar, A., Mehta, K., “Chang’aa Culture and Process: Detecting Contamination in a Killer Brew” Humanitarian Technology: Science, Systems and Global Impact Conference, Boston, May 2015
In recent years, outbreaks of methanol poisoning from the consumption of tainted alcohol have claimed umpteen lives around the world. Low wages in developing countries have forced consumers to turn to cheaper, unregulated, and often toxic brews. In Kenya, the most common surrogate alcohol is known as “chang’aa” and has caused numerous instances of methanol poisoning. Though once prohibited, the Kenyan government legalized and attempted to regulate the brew in 2010. Five years later, toxic brews are still an issue. To understand how consumption patterns and legal ramifications affect the brewing of chang’aa, three brewers and ten consumers were interviewed. In addition, the brewing process was carefully studied over several days. Improper brewing techniques, unsafe brewer additives, and unclean equipment were noted as possible methods of methanol contamination. From these case studies, opportunities for the redefinition of government standards and development of inexpensive methanol detection techniques are identified.