3.6kg of the chemically altered cane leaves were laid into each home – resulting in 40,000 deaths
In an attempt to undercut the company’s chief competitor, the South African firm was supplying cheap, government-subsidised seeds to several South African cities with no protection from competition from others. It led to mass starvation in some communities after the planting of the poison weed drove African farmers to borrow money or steal money from their families in order to buy the crop. (More Than 22 million hectares are infected with rust.)
5.26kg of the plant grew in caskets and stands throughout the graveyard
A 1928 demonstration at the site of the central graveyard for Hastings inmates showed that 10 kilos of the substance were enough to cure patients of TB. Five years later, Hastings continued to show off the extraordinary birch syrup, even as eight people died and dozens more contracted the disease from its use.
The condiment, which is now banned in South Africa, was described as “magic”. But in 2015, the leukaemia charity Centre for Health Action raised the possibility that consuming the syrup could be a cause of the disease, and advised people to stick to drugs or choral, which is more concentrated than birch syrup. A year later, there was renewed debate about the sugary condiment when 16 people fell sick from eating brussels sprouts laced with birch syrup.