Earlier this evening, I saw something I never ever expected to see – the shelves of our local Kaufland supermarket being completely cleared of every bottle of alcoholic drink that is more than 20% proof. The reason for this drastic action is to try and prevent further deaths and injuries from rum and vodka, contaminated by poisonous methanol, which have already claimed the lives of nineteen people in the Czech Republic and two more in Poland. It has also put up to thirty others into hospital, several of whom have lost their sight.
Whilst the contaminated liquor that is responsible for these deaths and injuries is bootlegged/illegal in origin, some of it has been sold in bottles bearing a legitimate manufacturer’s name. Initially, the Czech government just banned sales by street vendors and market stalls. But with the increasing number of deaths and with no definite identification of the source of the contaminated spirits, the Czech government today has taken the somewhat drastic step of banning all sales of of liquor with more than 20 percent alcohol.
As someone who never ever drinks anything stronger than port wine, I’m not in anyway going to be affected by this understandable but somewhat drastic decision of the Czech government. But this ban does affect two of the Czech Republic’s most famous products –Becherovka and Slivovice. Keeping the balance between protecting public health and not damaging the country’s economy, is going to be a considerable problem in the coming days and weeks.