Bulgaria checks alcohol on sale amid Czech bootleg liquor crisis

Bulgarian consumer protection authorities said that they were checking alcohol products on sale, especially vodka and rum, because of the Czech illegal liquor crisis that has led to 23 deaths in the Czech Republic and a ban on sales of Czech hard liquor products in Poland and Slovakia.

The Czech hard liquor crisis began when people died or had to be taken to hospital, some of them having lost their sight, after drinking alcohol laced with methanol. The government in Prague followed up with a ban on alcohol sales.

Even as Bulgaria made the announcement on September 19, Russia was considering a ban on imports of hard liquor from the Czech Republic and Poland until the source of the methanol poisoning is established.

At the same time, the Czech ban on liquor sales, imposed after 23 people died and a large number were taken to hospital, has caused huge controversy in that country with the mainstream legal liquor industry outraged by its loss of income.

The Prague Post, quoting Czech-language media, said on September 19 2012 that the Czech government was working on plans to reopen the liquor market.

Czech prime minister Petr Necas said on September 19 that newly produced liquor should be sold with a new type of stamp, and alcohol should obtain laboratory-tested “birth certificates”. Czech president Vaclav Klaus broke his silence on the introduction of prohibition, publicly criticising the decision as an unreasonable and exaggerated solution to the spread of bootleg alcohol and saying that it would be difficult to lift.

Poland announced on September 16 a one-month ban on imports of liquor from the Czech Republic, although Czech beer and wine were exempted from the ban. Three people in Poland have been taken to hospital with suspected methanol poisoning after drinking alcohol products.

After four people in Slovakia were poisoned – though not fatally – by doctored alcohol bought through the internet from the Czech Republic, Slovakia decided to halt the import of alcohol produced in that country, The Slovak Spectator reported on September 18.

Announcing the ban, Slovak agriculture minister Lubomir Jahnatek said that it was a precaution after the government learnt that grocery chains were planning big sales of Czech alcohol the following day.

The Russian sanitary service is concerned over the growing number of victims of illegal alcohol in Poland and the Czech Republic and does not rule out banning imports of strong spirits from both countries unless they find the source of methanol poisoning, Russia’s Chief Health Inspector Gennady Onishchenko said on September 19, The Warsaw Voice reported.

Hungary has issued a warning to shops not to sell liquor products unless the origin is legally and formally confirmed.

On September 12, The Prague Post reported that Vladimir Steiner of the Czech Association of Spirit Producers and Importers had told Czech Radio that while 15 per cent to 20 per cent of the liquor consumed in theCzech Republicannually is homemade, this particular batch was something entirely different.

“If you ask me, I think someone producing bootleg alcohol had access to the methanol that is imported to the Czech Republic for industrial use. It comes at half the price of ethanol, and I think someone intentionally substituted it to make a quick fortune and knowing that by its colour, taste and smell it is indistinguishable from ethanol,” Steiner said.

(Photo:  Michal Zacharzewski/sxc.hu)




The Sofia Globe staff

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