Czech government restricts alcohol sales after 19 die from methanol-laced vodka, rum

Methanol-laced rum and vodka has killed 19 and hospitalized 24 people in the Czech Republic, according to media reports.

Methanol is a low cost industrial solvent that often is used in counterfeit alcohol. Effects of ingesting methanol include nausea and vomiting, confusion and vision difficulties. In the most severe cases, it can lead to coma and death.

Methanol also is found in antifreeze, fuel additives and varnish, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The Czech government banned kiosks and stores from selling beverages with more than 30 percent alcohol content. Police also raided more than 400 establishments selling alcohol and found 70 cases of illegal alcohol, according to USA Today.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas implored people to not drink “any alcohol whose origin is uncertain,”  the Associated Press reported.

Eight of the deaths were in the Moravian-Silesian region, which is near the Polish border.

Officials believe the cases are connected. Two suspects have been arrested.

Earlier this year, the U.K.’s Food Standards Agency reported a sharp increase in the number of counterfeit alcohol complaints in the U.K. during May and June. Roughly 75 cases were reported this year up from 55 in the same time frame the year before.

Last year, a methanol poisoning outbreak killed 170 people in India. In 1998, 43 people in Serbia died after drinking illegally-made plum brandy, according to the Associated Press.

To see Neogen’s product offerings for methanol testing, click here.

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