PM Abbott rejects calls for ban on Vegemite

CANBERRA • Australian government ministers have dismissed calls for iconic Australian spread Vegemite to be banned in some aboriginal communities, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying the black, yeast-based product was a staple for " morning toast and sandwiches".

Mr Abbott's comments follow reports of home-brewed alcohol being made from the spread, particularly in some areas of the Northern Territory, where problem drinking is prevalent among the indigenous population.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion had earlier released a statement saying he had been informed of the issue, but it was up to local communities to report "suspicious" purchases to the authorities.

"Addiction of any type is a concern but communities, especially where alcohol is banned, must work to ensure home brewing of this type does not occur," Mr Scullion said.

"Businesses in these communities also have a responsibility to report any purchase that may raise their own suspicions."

Mr Abbott said on Sunday that he would not be implementing a "Vegemite watch" on Australia's favourite breakfast spread.

He, like Mr Scullion, said better policing would lead to safer "dry" (alcohol-free) communities.

Vegemite was developed from brewer's yeast back in 1922, and was one of the richest sources of vitamin B at the time.

The extent of alcoholic Vegemite-based brew in remote communities is not known, but it is believed that in 2010, a man died in Queensland after drinking the moonshine, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The report said the owners of Vegemite, Mondelez, a US-based multinational food company, declined to comment.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'PM Abbott rejects calls for ban on Vegemite'. Print Edition | Subscribe