Kenya: Methanol, which has been linked to the toxic brews that have killed hundreds of people, may soon be classified as a controlled substance, if the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) has its way.

Nacada officials believe this will enable them to monitor the manufacture of alcoholic drinks.

The agency is lobbying Health Cabinet Secretary James Macharia and his Interior co-ordination counterpart Joseph ole Lenku to gazette the substance as such, to strengthen the fight against illicit brews.

If the move succeeds, methanol will enter the list of controlled substances being monitored by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board, which monitors medical drugs and substances.

"We need to keep a close eye on methanol from now on, otherwise unscrupulous brewers will continue using it and more lives will be lost to adulterated brews," Nacada Chief Executive Officer William Okedi said yesterday after chairing an emergency inter-agency meeting following 29 killer-brew deaths across the country.

"Once use of methanol is closely restricted, the fight against killer brews will have been enhanced significantly. If any deaths from brews laced with methanol occur in future, we will just trace it to the actual importers," he added.

Pharmacy and Poisons Board Director of Inspections, Surveillance and Enforcement Ahmed Mohamed said if Methanol is gazetted as a controlled substance, importers will be required to get a licence to continue importing it.

He said an importer must also demonstrate how the substance has been used before a licence is used to import a fresh consignment.

"Controlled substances are monitored closely and those handling them can easily be held accountable in case of misuse," he said.