Travellers to Czech Republic warned to avoid local spirits following spate of methanol poisonings


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The Independent Online

Travellers to the Czech Republic have been warned to avoid locally-produced hard spirits following a spate of methanol poisonings resulting in 19 deaths.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the poisonings were associated with bootleg spirits on sale in markets, restaurants and pubs in the country that had been tainted with industrial methanol.

A further 36 people had been admitted to hospital after drinking the spirits, which included vodka and rum and were marketed as "hard liquor", containing over 20% alcohol.

On-the-spot tests by officials in the Czech Republic confirmed high levels of methanol in the alcohol and the Czech Ministry of Health had taken immediate steps to ban the sale of alcohol over 20% for the foreseeable future, the FSA said.

The FSA is advising people to avoid buying or drinking Hanacka Vodka, Vodka Drak, Merunka, Borovicka, Svestkova vodka, Vodka Lunar and Tuzmak.

FSA head of incidents Colin Houston said: "We're advising people to be extra cautious when buying and drinking alcohol in the Czech Republic.

"In particular, we're also warning people who may be bringing the locally-produced alcohol back as souvenirs to be vigilant, as these so-called hard liquors can contain potentially lethal levels of methanol."