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Vegemite Defended By Tony Abbott Amid Calls Spread Is 'Precursor To Misery'

10/08/2015 11:53 BST | Updated 10/08/2015 11:59 BST

Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott has been forced to defend the country's "nutritious" Vegemite yeast spread, against plans to curb its sales due to fears of illegal alcohol brewing.

Calls have been made to restrict sales of the Marmite-like spread amid fears that it is being used by indigenous Australians to make alcohol.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion described Vegemite as a "precursor to misery" and said it was being bought in bulk to make the distilled spirit Moonshine.

vegemite

Some Aboriginal Australians are using bathtubs to ferment jars of vegemite, Sky News reported, with people buying as many as 20 jars at once, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Scullion recommended that sales be curbed to stop the brewer’s yeast base of the spread, which is often likened to the Marmite, being used for illicit brewing.

Alcohol is illegal in some indigenous communities to combat high rates of alcoholism and addiction.

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But Prime Minister Tony Abbott has cautioned against "Vegemite watch", saying that suggestions of spying on customers and tipping off police to suspicious Vegemite purchases were not appropriate.

He told reporters at a press event: "The last thing I want to do is have a Vegemite watch.

"Vegemite, quite properly, is for most people a reasonably nutritious spread on your morning toast or on your sandwiches."

vegemite

Scullion, the Indigenous Affairs Minister, said: "Our priority has always been to get kids to school, make communities safer and get people into jobs. Businesses in these communities have a responsibility to report any purchase that may raise their own suspicions."