Despite the Czech Republic having the highest beer consumption per capita in the world, and an average hard liquor consumption of about two gallons, alcohol related deaths are rare in the small European country of 10.5 million people. However, following the death of 19 people associated with bootleg vodka and rum, the Czech Republic has banned the sale of all alcohol over 40 proof.
"The initial ban ... was widened to a total ban everywhere, starting today."
According to Reuters, the ban covers all domestic brands as well as imports. The Czech spirits with which you're probably most familiar are Becherovka (a clove liqueur) and Jelinek Fernet (a digestif competitor to Fernet Branca). The first deaths happened in the Moravian-Silesian region east of Prague, but the Czech health ministry has expanded the ban to bars, restaurants, and supermarkets once it was learned that some of the alcohol was purchased commercially.
"The initial ban ... was widened to a total ban everywhere, starting today," health minister Leos Heger said in a broadcast on Czech Television. After the announcement, market shelves were cleared off and signs of the ban hung over bottles in the country's cocktail bars.
Poland has followed suit and banned Czech spirits to be imported into the country. No news yet as to whether any Poles were affected in what has left many, in addition to those killed, have left others in a coma or induced blindness.
UPDATE Police have made dozens of arrests related to the deaths, as the ban enters its fourth day
UPDATE Police have arrested two men believed to be responsible for the methanol-poisoning. Prime Minister Petr Nacs says that any new hard liquor produced in the country needs to have a detailed certificate of origin and contain production and distribution details.
Meanwhile, many Czechs have returned to distilling their own slivovitz, or plum brandy.
[Continue reading at: Reuters]