Czech authorities ban spirit sales after deaths

Poisonous vodkaThe Czech government has banned sales of all drinks with 20 per cent or higher alcohol content as it tries to contain a tragic counterfeiting incident that has already left around 20 people dead and dozens more in hospital.

The authorities implemented the temporary ban on Friday (September 14), prohibiting the sale of spirits from public establishments including bars and restaurants. Earlier it had introduced a ban affecting just street vendors and market stalls.

The deaths and injuries - including at least seven cases in which people have lost their sight - have been blamed on methanol contamination of bootleg alcohol and counterfeit versions of brands sold by local company Likerka Drak (Dragon Distillery).

A major police operation swung into action last week to try to identify the source of the contamination, and at last count some 22 people had been detained and several thousand litres of alcoholic drinks seized.

The case is expected to lead to the introduction of more stringent regulations over the sale of alcohol in the Czech Republic, with KPMG analyst Frank Voskeuil predicting that the EU may call for the introduction of a coding system for spirits analogous to the unique identification system proposed in the Falsified Medicines Directive.

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