28 October 2016
You could be ingesting these little blue pills in powdered form next time you drink baijiu. Photo: Internet
You could be ingesting these little blue pills in powdered form next time you drink baijiu. Photo: Internet

Don’t get enough kick from baijiu? Find out what else is in it

The Chinese hard spirit baijiu is known for its fiery taste, but some makers have added an extra kick in the form of powdered Viagra, according to the government’s food safety bureau.

At least 51 distillers have added doses of Sildenafil — the generic name for Viagra — in their spirits, the Financial Times reports, citing the State Food and Drug Administration.

Sildenafil is the hypertension drug that became a worldwide best-seller under the brand name Viagra when it turned out to be effective against erectile dysfunction.

Which means if you’ve been looking for an excuse to try China’s most popular drink, now’s the time to get it on.

Citizens typically take food adulteration very seriously in China, where dairy makers added the chemical melamine to milk in 2008, resulting in the death of six infants and illnesses in hundreds of thousands of others.

But this time, many are showing rising support for the product rather than taking a hard line against it.

“Please buy me a few bottles,” one social media user wrote on Weibo, in response to an article this weekend on the latest distillery to get busted.

“Just supplementing a little,” said another Weibo user, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For the uninitiated or simply unsuspecting, baijiu is an acquired taste.

On its own, it’s one of the stiffest cocktails known to man — at 120 proof, often likened to drinking lighter fluid, paint thinner, rocket fuel or worse.

If you’re not ever so careful, a sniff test will blow your brains out.

“It’s hot enough to make you clutch your chest, setting your mouth, throat, and nasal passages aflame before leaving you with its lingering taste: the sweet funk of fermentation,” wrote Angela Tchou in The New Yorker.

Now, as if nausea, flushing and bleeding from your nether regions wasn’t bad enough, Viagra-spiked baijiu can cause sudden vision loss in one or both eyes and sudden hearing loss.

Oh, yeah. Or an erection that lasts more than four hours, a condition which requires immediate medical attention to avoid unspecified permanent damage, according to safety information at the Viagra website.

It’s also guaranteed your night will end badly.

Law enforcement officers confiscated 5,357 bottles of the suspect products, 1,124 kilos of raw alcohol and a batch of white powder labeled Sildenafil, in a case worth more than 700,000 yuan (US$112,726), the Liuzhou Food and Drug Administration said on its website, Reuters reports.

The products were all marketed as having health-preserving qualities, it said.

“Reduces blood pressure, improves sleep” claimed one label produced by formerly state-owned Guikun Distillery.

Another claimed to be made with “Chinese herbs”.

According to an FT report, the national safety regulator has ordered all producers of health tonics and mixed alcohols to conduct “comprehensive self-checks” and pull products containing Sildenafil by Aug. 15.

It is assumed that those who do not comply will face stiff penalties.

Sales of the little blue pill in China rocketed by an impressive 47 percent last year, a surge attributed to drug company Pfizer’s hard-pushed educational campaign about erectile dysfunction in the country, according to Shanghaiist.

For reference, doctors recommend people should take only one dose of Viagra a day, with a lower dose for those over the age of 65.

Food safety watchdogs fear the first death from an overdose by an overzealous senior — a man conditioned over a lifetime to ingest mass quantities of baijiu, for example, could easily take the equivalent of 12 pills and his wife could die.

– Contact us at [email protected]


A strategist and marketing consultant on China business

EJI Weekly Newsletter