Palm Wine You Drink Could Be Dangerous!
Waking up at dawn and trekking to the bush where palm wine is tapped to have a taste of the local drink is a common phenomenon in the typical Ghanaian rural set up.
Those who consume the drink consider it as an energiser that helps them on their farms. In some cases, these consumers mix salt with peper (misiwa) as appetizer and chew them, before drinking the palm wine.
The place they meet to drink, whether in the morning or evening, is usually referred to in the local language as 'asadwa ase'.
It is at this place that all manner of stories are told amidst singing and dancing. Sometimes they cook local food with bush animals that have been hunted.
But all these merry making that make the rural areas a nice place to stay, will soon be lost if the new method being used in tapping the local wine is not reversed.
The traditional way of making the wine drinkable is for the tappers to usually gather dried palm branches, tie them together and set fire to them.
They then use either a local fan or pipe to blow air into the fire to heat the glade, where the wine drips off from the palm tree. The idea is to prevent bees hovering around from laying eggs in the glade to damage it.
However, due to sheer laziness, some palm wine tappers are reportedly using pesticides to ward off the bees and this is what the Minister for Science, Technology, Environment and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng considers as dangerous.
“Let me point out that those who drink palm wine face possible health risks, including some kinds of cancer, because most tappers use pesticide to process the drink”, he said and added that, the effect could be dire if the menace is not immediately checked.
Speaking to Space FM in Sunyani, Professor Frimpong Boateng said the use of pesticide by the palm wine tappers may not be deliberate but could be an act of ignorance, which called for immediate education on its ramifications.
The renowned heart surgeon said the use of pesticide in preserving food items, including 'Koobi' and tiger nuts is high and called for national intervention.
Professor Frimpong Boateng further called for a ban on the use of weedicides and pesticides because it does not only destroy the weeds, but also the fertility of the soil.
“Using weedicide does not only kill the weed, it can indeed damage the fertility of the soil as well and I strongly would support a ban on it”, he said.
He said the over-reliance on weedicide had triggered the increased use of fertilizer because the nutrients in the soil had been destroyed.
“You realize that because the nutrients in the soil have been destroyed by the weedicide, we are now relying heavily on fertilizers”, Professor Frimpong Boateng said.
Recently, at the third National Policy Summit in Kumasi, which brought together stakeholders from all walks of life to discuss the health situation of the economy and its prospects, Professor Frimpong Boateng said government had instituted the National Science and Technology policy to drive the activities of all sectors of the economy.
He hinted that there was a presidential advisory council to educate the President on all science and technology-related matters.
Palm wine is a popular alcoholic beverage found in Ghana and other African countries, including Cameroon and Nigeria.
It is important for people to understand what goes on in the palm wine business, in order to be able to make healthy choices.
The best form of palm wine that will benefit your health is the one that is fresh from the source. Palm wine tappers advise that nothing is added to it.
“If you are to buy palm wine from a palm wine vendor, make sure you trust the source and also make sure that nothing has been added to it”, Wofa Atta Mensah, a palm wine tapper for decades, told The Chronicle in Sunyani.
Side effects of palm wine
According to Health Pleromana, a website dedicated to health issues, if you are drinking palm wine that has lasted for more than 3 days, its alcohol content is high because it has undergone fermentation.
The percentage of alcohol in palm wine when it is fresh is about 2.3% and it is about 5% when it has undergone fermentation for about 4 days. If you are taking medication that prohibits you from drinking alcohol, you shouldn’t drink palm wine.
Taking alcohol in excess is a foundation stone for diseases in the future and strong palm wine is not an exception.
The alcohol content of palm wine can cause; light headaches, dizziness, drunkenness, addiction to strong palm wine and other strong drinks as well as damage to the liver, heart, pancreas, brain and other body organs if taken for many years. Drinking excess alcohol for long can cause problems like erectile dysfunction in men.
If a pregnant woman drinks too much alcohol, it can cause miscarriages, still births and some abnormalities in babies. It is important for pregnant women to know that alcohol is capable of crossing the placenta into the fetus causing fetal alcohol syndrome.
This can lead to mental retardation and make a child to have a low intelligence quotient (IQ) and hence will be dull in school or any other activity that requires some level of IQ.
If you don’t buy palm wine from the source, it is possible that it has been diluted and adulterated. However, in most Ghanaian villages, it is very easy to get to the source of fresh palm wine.
Selling palm wine is a lucrative business and in order for sellers to increase their sales, some of them dilute fresh palm wine with water and add artificial sweeteners like saccharine to make it sweet.
After diluting palm wine, it usually looks lighter than normal and anyone who grew up around palm wine will be able to notice this difference.
In order to hide this act, some palm wine sellers allegedly add cassava starch to the diluted palm wine to make it whiter.
Adulterated palm wine can cause the following: diarrhea, stomach upset and other water borne diseases if unclean water was used to dilute the palm wine.
The artificial sweetener and sugar that is used to sweeten diluted palm wine can increase the risk of having type 2 diabetes. It also increases the risk of hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases.