Kambucha craze: Authorities fail to regulate notorious beverage

Philipa Jaja

Controversy surrounds production and importation of Kambucha, which has gained popularity and notoriety over the past year.

Kambucha, also known as komboocha, is manufactured in Zimbabwe by emerging beverage makers, but imports
from Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Africa have proliferated.

An investigation by Review & Mail over the past weeks revealed that no safety and regulation framework has
been put in place by Government of Zimbabwe despite health and public safety concerns amid reports of
whether the beverage can be classified as a herbal drink, aphrodisiac, energy drink
or supplementary food, as it contains a cocktail of ingredients such as ginger, honey, lemon and others.

It is also said to contain alcohol, but the packaging and labelling differs from manufacturers. Relevant authorities failed to provide information about the scientific side of the safety and health standards of Kambucha.

Evidence gathered by this publication show that the drink is yet to be standardised by the relevant authorities.

Review & Mail posed questions to Standards Association of Zimbabwe, Medicines To Control Authority of
Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Alcoholic Beverages Manufacturers, but all drew blanks as officials declined to comment on the controversial product.

One of the makers of Kambucha in Harare, Fresh Kambucha, whose product is advertised by a popular dancehall musician, Seh Calaz, revealed that it had since engaged authorities to regulate and standardise.

“We have engaged with the Standard Authority of Zimbabwe (SAZ) concerning the standardisation of our drink,” an official in the marketing department of the company only self-identified as Yaya said.

“This will address the main concerns behind popular sentiments that it is not alcohol but a fermented beverage, meaning the process which includes the breaking down of sugars will eventually result in it having some alcoholic
qualities.”

Kambucha’s health benefits have been dubiously touted as including ability to cleanse the system, healing influenza
up to treating back problems.

Our investigations revealed that the drink is said also to be an aphrodisiac that is now being abused in some quarters Zimbabwe has the Food and Food Standards Act (Chapter 15:04) that provides for the regulation of food and drink.

The law “provides for the sale, importation and manufacture for sale of food in a pure state. The Act aims to prohibit the sale, importation and manufacture for sale of food that is unsafe and to provide for the fixing of standards relating to food and related matters.”

Problems about the product have been identified in Zambia.

In April 2020, kombucha was controversially advertised as a cure for COVID 19 by one manufacturer,
Nutricom Food and Beverage Limited according to a Zambian publication, raising the ire of authorities.

According to a report: “The Lusaka Province Minister then, Bowman Lusambo, cautioned Nutricom Food and

Beverage Limited Managing Director, Yugandhar Reddy, to withdraw posters that were placed in various parts of the city to advertise the product and hood wink the people.”

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