Customs officials confiscated 50 litres of homemade cherry brandy last
week containing deadly methyl alcohol. The owner had bought 20 litres of
distillate from a door-to-door seller but sent samples to a laboratory to
test the beverage for methanol. The police have warned people against
buying any alcohol from door-to-door sellers.
The recent outbreak of methanol poisoning has claimed the lives of 27 people while dozens of others were intoxicated. In response, the government introduced a ban on spirits sales which was lifted last week.
Methanol poisoning has claimed a 27th life in the Czech Republic since the outbreak of poisoning began on September 14. The patient was a 62-year-old man from the Beskydy area. The man had been found poisoned in his home on September 28; he is one of 11 people in his region to have died as a result of having drunk bootleg alcohol.
The Czech Environmental Inspectorate has outlined that uncertified alcohol which will have to be destroyed for lack of documentation should be handled as dangerous waste. The inspectorate warned that anyone dumping alcohol without respecting existing legislation could face fines of up to 50 million crowns. Sellers have until the end of November to produce necessary certification or face having to dispose of their supply. It will be possible to destroy bottles of unknown origin, for example, at sites with industrial incinerators focussing on dangerous materials.
Hygiene officers conducted checks of 1,207 establishments – mostly
restaurants – at the weekend to see if they were upholding the partial
ban on hard liquor following the spate of methanol poisoning in the Czech
Republic in September that killed 27 people. Nine remain in hospital from
drinking poisoned alcohol; five of those persons were admitted to hospital
at the weekend. In all, 76 people were poisoned after consuming bootleg
liquor; some of those who survived suffered permanent disability, such as
blindness or badly-damaged eyesight.
Health Minister Leoš Heger confirmed on Monday that of the 1,207 establishments checked at the weekend, 20 venues had failed to meet the strict new requirements, lacking, for example, the necessary documentation for specific products sold. Under the partial ban, establishments have up to 60 days to produce certification for alcohol in storage and only hard alcohol produced before 2012 can be legally sold. In the near future, hygiene officers will focus on taking samples from opened bottles at establishments to measure for the presence of dangerous substances.
The Czech state is going to compensate vendors forced to destroy legally acquired alcoholic drinks because they have not been able to acquire on time confirmation that they come from a legitimate source. The state will return the VAT paid on such alcohol in the form of credit towards future income tax, the minister of finance, Miloslav Kalousek, said on Sunday. The government has decided that freshly produced alcohol with proof of origin and new stamps can be sold, as can alcohol produced before the start of 2011. Alcohol produced this year cannot be sold until a so-called “birth certificate” is acquired, within 60 days of last Thursday, when a ban on spirits with over 20 percent alcohol content – introduced in response to the methanol crisis – was partially lifted.
According to the police’s information, two men charged in connection with producing methanol-tainted bootleg liquor were the only source of the lethal concoction, state attorney Roman Kafka said on Sunday. To date, 26 people have died in the Czech Republic from drinking the fake booze, while others have been blinded. Mr. Kafka said the police were still investigating the pair’s accomplices, including highly-placed distributors. The Czech government banned the sale of all drinks with more than 20 percent alcohol content for almost two weeks following the spate of poisonings.
Three people intoxicated with methanol remain in critical condition in hospitals in the north-east of the country. A 43-year-old man, who was earlier this week hospitalized in Havířov, showed signs of improvement on Friday, doctors said. Another two people – a 60-year-old and a 58-year-old men – are in an Ostrava hospital; their condition has been reported as stable. 26 people have died in the recent outbreak of methanol poisoning in the country while dozens have been hospitalized.
The government opted on late Wednesday to partially lift a ban on spirits in the Czech Republic following a breakout of methanol poisoning this month that killed 26 people. Under the decision, effective Thursday following a statement by the health minister, hard liquor produced in the country before January 1, 2012 will be allowed back on the shelves. Any newly-produced hard alcohol will need new tax stamps; alcohol put into storage following the breakout of poisonings earlier this month will by contrast need certification or have to be destroyed. Proprietors have up to 60 days to provide the necessary documentation. The mass poisoning which broke out in mid-September is the worst such case in the Czech Republic in recent memory; around 30 people remain in hospital after having consumed tainted alcohol.
Czech authorities believe they have the methanol crisis under control, and they have eased the ban on spirits sales. As of Thursday afternoon, hard liquor produced before 2012 can be sold without restrictions. But the government has also warned that the risk of poisoning is still very high as another two patients with methanol intoxication have been admitted to hospital over the last 24 hours.
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