Crocodile Bile Beer Kills 69 People in Mozambique?

It is speculated that about 69 people were after drinking Crocodile Bile beer over the weekend in Mozambique. The very short report that appeared yesterday in The New York Times cites another official, Alex Albertini, as being the source of this speculation.

Contaminated traditional beer has killed 56 people in Mozambique, health officials said Sunday. In addition, 49 people were admitted to hospitals in the Chitima and Songo districts in Tete Province, and 146 people have been examined for signs of the poisoning, a district health official, Alex Albertini, told Radio Mozambique. Those who drank the contaminated brew were attending a funeral in the region on Saturday, Mr. Albertini said. The authorities said they believed that the drink was poisoned with crocodile bile during the course of the funeral. The woman who brewed the beer is also among the dead.

The provincial health director for Tete, Carla Mosse Lazarus, said that samples had already been sent to a national analytical laboratory to determine what poison or poisons had contaminated the 210-liter drum of the brewed beverage.

What is a “crocodile bile”? Professor N.Z. Nyazema, in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Zimbabwe, writing in the Central African Journal of Medicine in 1984 and 1985.

It is widely believed that the bile from the gall bladder of a crocodile is very poisonous. The bile nduru is used as poison which is added to beer or stiff porridge, sadza, of an unsuspecting victim. It is not easy to buy this poison neither is it easy for anyone to kill a crocodile solely for the purpose of obtaining the bile. But with a good fee one can obtain some of the poison from a special n’anga [a traditional healer of the Zimbabwean Shona tribe]. At times the n’anga may undertake to poison the victim thus adding mystery to the ingredients of the poison. It is reported that the poisoning occurs at special occasions like beer drinking: The nduru is said to be introduced into the beer by dipping the finger or nail where a small amount is placed: This will suffice for the purpose. The unfortunate victim is supposed to die within 24 hours. The poison is supposed to manifest itself when the patient develops pains mainly in the abdomen.