For many people across the world, Vegemite is that strange spread that Australians eat on their toast and no one can quite work out why, even after Hugh Jackman gave Jimmy Fallon a lesson in correct Vegemite consumption. However, in its country of origin, Vegemite now runs the risk of being restricted in certain areas where alcohol abuse is prevalent.
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, in particular, wants sales of Vegemite monitored, describing the Aussie spread as a “precursor to misery.” While he fell short of saying a ban or restrictions should be placed on Vegemite, he was concerned that the product could be abused in this manner, especially in indigenous areas where alcohol and substance abuse was already an issue. Australia’s Prime Minster, Tony Abbott, however, does not want any restrictions on Vegemite, saying the last things Australia needed was a “Vegemite watch.”
“This is a deregulatory Government and the last thing I want to do is to have a Vegemite watch… because Vegemite, quite properly, is for most people a reasonably nutritious spread on your morning toast or on your sandwiches. What’s important is that we ensure that remote communities, all communities, are being properly policed.”
But why is Vegemite a problem?
Vegemite contains brewers yeast, a product that can be used to make alcohol. In certain areas of Australia where alcohol abuse is an issue, unsuspecting common ingredients such as Vegemite can be used discretely to make moonshine. A Brisbane newspaper recently reported that Vegemite was being used in large quantities to make alcohol in bathtubs.
A spokesperson for Nigel Scullion issued a statement in relation to restricting sales on Vegemite.
“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. Businesses in these communities also have a responsibility to report any purchase that may raise their own suspicions.”
It was reported by Time that alcohol made from Vegemite has been to blame to for children failing to attend school due to hangovers and some domestic violence incidents cited Vegemite alcohol as the instigator.
However, just how effective is the restriction of products like Vegemite? In the past, when opening hours of bottle shops were restricted in Alice Springs to curb alcohol fueled violence, alcoholics turned to products such as the mouthwash, Listerine, to get their fix, thus proving that banning, or restricting products is not the solution.
Dr. John Boffa of the People’s Alcohol Action Coalition, also based in Alice Springs, thinks that Vegemite alcohol is not a widespread issue and therefore should not be restricted in any way.
“We’re talking about an isolated problem in a couple of communities around a very large nation, and a nation where there is a very large number of Aboriginal communities, and every community is different.”
What are your thoughts on restricting the sale of Vegemite in certain areas? Let us know by commenting below.
[Image credit: Kraft / screen capture via Vegemite website]