The consequences of contaminated bootleg liquor in the Czech Republic

The shelves of our local Kaufland supermarket being cleared of all bottles of spirits more than 20% proof © Sybille & Ricky Yates

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.

8 comments to The consequences of contaminated bootleg liquor in the Czech Republic

  • Scott Keel

    I need to rethink my Christmas Gift Ideas. People might take it the wrong way.

    • Ricky

      It depends how long the ban lasts Scott, & whether the authorities are successful in tracking the source & the perpetrators of this contamination. But the gift of a bottle of Becherovka or Slivovice this Christmas just might not be appreciated 😉

  • I’ve been following this on the BBC website, Ricky. A dreadful situation, not least because of the use of apparently legitimate packaging. I hope they track down the perpetrators soon.

    • Ricky

      It is a dreadful situation Perpetua. And it is because some deaths do seem to be the result of drinking spirits with apparently legitimate packaging, that this more draconian measure of banning all sales of spirits that are 20%+ proof, was brought in yesterday. Sybille is just back from a Kaufland visit & says that all the shelves in my photo are now completely empty with just the Czech Ministry of Health notice displayed!

  • Hello, Rev. Yates,

    That truly is sad about the deaths related to contaminated alcohol and the effect the ban will have on Czech exports. Is the ban just a temporary thing, or is it supposed to be a permanent settlement? Like you, I am not a drinker of alcoholic beverages, but I can appreciate the tradition that goes into them and the economic benefits made out of them. As a matter of fact, I have a small collection of British whiskey bottles stationed in my room!

    I’ll be praying everything gets cleared up!

    God Bless,
    Pearl of Tyburn

    • Ricky

      Pearl – It is very sad that lives should be lost or permanently damaged in this way. To their credit, at this point in time the Czech government are putting greater value on the preservation of human life over economic gain, something I’m sure you would approve of. The ban is only meant to be temporary but how long it will last very much depends on the authorities tracking down the source and perpetrators of this scandal. So far, they’ve confiscated quite a quantity of illicit spirits but not found the origin of the methanol.

      I do feel sorry for those who will suffer the economic effects of this ban. For example, there is bar & shop near where I live that specialises in importing Scottish Whiskies & Irish Whiskeys & offering degustation so people can try different single malts. The current blanket ban on the sale of spirits means they cannot sell their whisky/whiskey even though it is all imported from outside of the Czech Republic & therefore will not be contaminated in anyway.

      Finally, just for clarification, I do drink beer & wine, but nothing stronger!

  • […] The consequences of contaminated bootleg liquor in the Czech Republic »    […]

  • […] forgive the obvious pun ), I thought I’d better explain the current situation regarding the ban on the sale of alcoholic drinks exceeding 20% proof which has been the subject of my two most recent posts. As can be seen in this photograph, the ban […]