Aussies Are Discussing a Ban on Vegemite, and Not Because of the Taste

Australia’s neglected indigenous community is abusing moonshine brewed from the yeasty paste.

Australia…the land of koalas. Of fun accents. Of great surfing. The cheerful “land down under, where women glow and men plunder.” We love just about everything about this sunny nation, except perhaps Vegemite, a dark brown, salty spread made of yeast extract. Australians and Men at Work swear by it, but the rest of us find the trademark condiment acrid, smelly and frankly inedible.

Aussies may not really like it either—it’s hard to say—but they devour the stuff as a point of national pride.

Which is why it’s so surprising to hear the news of a Down Under official denouncing the spread’s popularity in some areas. According to the BBC, the foul snack paste is being used to brew moonshine in rural indigenous communities where alcohol is banned. The paste is made from Brewer’s yeast, which can be used to make beer and bootleg hooch. 

Aboriginal Australians are among the most marginalized communities in the world, and longstanding discrimination has led to unemployment, cyclical poverty, and the widespread abuse of drugs and alcohol. 

Some in the Australian government warn that the sale of Vegemite must be limited in order to curtail addiction in such districts. Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion told the BBC, “Businesses in these communities…have a responsibility to report any purchase that may raise their own suspicions.” Citing the abuse of Vegemite-based alcohol among children and in domestic abuse cases, Scullion cautioned that Vegemite was a “precursor to misery.”

Prime Minister Tony Abbot said he would oppose treating the spread as a controlled substance in indigenous communities, claiming, “Vegemite, quite properly, is for most people a reasonably nutritious spread on your morning toast or on your sandwiches.”

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