Crocodile Bile Tainted Beer Kills Dozens in African – Investigation Pending!

Crocodile Bile Tainted Beer Kills Dozens in African – Investigation Pending!

Summary of eRumor:  

Scores of mourners at a funeral in Mozambique, Africa, died after they drank a traditional homebrewed beer that was poisoned with crocodile bile.

The Truth:


It’s true that dozens of mourners died after drinking a traditional beer in Africa, but their cause of death isn’t yet clear.  

The eRumor started after the Associated Press reported that the beer had likely been poisoned with crocodile bile:

MAPUTO, Mozambique (AP) — When a crocodile is killed, the bile of the animal must be immediately removed and buried in front of witnesses to prove that it has not fallen into the wrong hands, to be used as poison, according to some African traditions.

The deadly greenish-brown liquid, produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder, is now believed to have been put into traditional beer that killed 69 people who drank it at a funeral on Saturday in Mozambique’s northeast Tete province, health authorities said.

District health official, Alex Albertini, said poisoning by crocodile bile was common in the area, in an interview with Radio Mozambique.

News outlets from around the world quickly echoed the report of deadly crocodile bile-infused beer, and the eRumor was born. Still, local health officials hadn’t determined what had poisoned the funeral goers — and scientists dispute the local legend that crocodile bile is poisonous.

A translated report from Radio Mozambique doesn’t even name crocodile bile as a possible source of the poison, so it appears that the sensational idea led news outlets around the world to run with the unverified story. Radio Mozambique quoted Attorney General Beatriz Buchili:

“So far no clues. (Local authorities), in coordination with other institutions, (are) working on all fronts to determine the causes and the type of product used to contaminate drinking. After that, and if it is proved to have been a criminal act, we blame the alleged perpetrators.”

The victims reportedly drank a traditional local beer called “Phombe” — a mixture of sorghum, maize and sugar — on their way home from a funeral. Olivia Olocane, the 60-year-old woman who brewed the phombe, was among its first victims, the Global Post reports. The drink also killed a number of Olocane’s family members and neighbors.

And as local officials rush to determine what led to the deaths of the mourners, it’s not even clear that crocodile bile is deadly. A study on commercial crocodile farming presented at the World Crocodile Conference in 2013 concluded that crocodile bile could be safe for human consumption in limited amounts.

Similarly, Christian Lindmeier, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization, told the Washington Post that crocodile bile is often used in cheap African home brew:

 “The use of bile is not uncommon in the production of local or poor quality beer but is not known to be toxic to the extent this outbreak shows,” he said.

The cause of the mourners’ deaths won’t be known until local officials complete toxicology tests and autopsies. Future updates will be posted here.