HOOCH (Syllabus GS Paper 3 – Sci and Tech)

News-CRUX-10     21st June 2024        
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Context: Recently, at least 38 people have died and around 100 others have been hospitalized after consuming hooch in Tamil Nadu's Kallakurichi. Authorities are investigating the tragic incident to prevent further casualties.


  • About: It is a commonly used term for poor quality alcohol, derived from Hoochinoo, a native Alaskan tribe that was known to produce very strong liquor.
  • Production Environment: Unlike branded liquor, which is produced in factories with sophisticated equipment and rigorous quality control, hooch is made in more crude settings.
  • Taste and Purpose: Hooch may be disagreeable to one's taste buds and is simply meant to intoxicate.
  • Risks: When improperly prepared, hooch can be deadly.
  • Processes: All alcohol is produced using two basic processes: fermentation and distillation.
  • Fermentation: When heated, yeast reacts with sugar (from grain, fruits, sugarcane, etc.) to produce alcohol in a process called fermentation. Beverages like beer and wine are made using this process. However, fermentation has a limitation: it stops when the mixture reaches roughly 15% alcohol by volume because the alcohol is toxic to the yeast.
  • Distillation: This process physically separates alcohol from the fermented mixture by taking advantage of the differing boiling points of the mixture's various constituents. Distilled beverages, or spirits, are far more potent than fermented beverages.
  • Impact: Methanol can cause impaired vision, high toxicity, and metabolic acidosis, a condition in which the body produces excessive acid that cannot be flushed out by the kidneys.

oThe treatment for methanol poisoning is to intravenously administer fomepizole.

oFomepizole can be expensive and is unavailable in many parts of India.

oEthanol inhibits methanol's conversion into toxins and helps in flushing it out of the body either naturally or through dialysis.