The Czech Republic has lost a long-running dispute over the designation of butter products. The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that the phrase “butter spread” could not be applied to products with the equivalent name in Czech because their milk-fat content is lower than required by EU norms. According to the European Commission, which brought the suit, only products with at least 80% milk-fat can be called butter, while Czech regulations require only a 31% milk-fat content. The product in question is considered a traditional speciality by some.
The European Union’s Court of Justice on Thursday banned Czech producers from using a name for a diary product that has been on the market for over thirty years. The court ruled that the popular butter spread or pomazánkové máslo may not have the word butter in its name, since its milk-fat content is lower than the 80% butter must have according to European law.
The police have arrested Pavel Čaniga, the executive director of the liquor company Likérka Drak, and are still searching for the head of Drak’s distribution company Verdana, Robert Sedlařík. The two men are suspected of endangering public health with harmful products, after 7,600 bottles of rum containing 50% methanol were discovered in a storage facility belonging to Verdana at the end of last week. According to the police, the bottles were ready for distribution to stores, which could have caused a considerable number of deaths. Both Mr Čaniga and Mr Sedlařík denied any knowledge of the dangerously mixed liquor, but failed to produce documentation for more than 56 thousand liters of alcohol found in the Verdana warehouse. Mr Čaniga is currently being questioned by the police, but no charges have been brought against him so far.
The Czech food inspection authority seized 7,600 bottles of
methanol-contaminated rum in a warehouse in Zlín, in the east of the
country, after getting tipped off by an anonymous source, a spokesman for
the agency said on Tuesday. He said the methanol-laced alcohol, which was
ready for distribution, could have killed thousands of people. The deadly
beverages were made by the Drak spirits producer whose manager said he did
not understand how it was possible.
The methanol crisis, which broke out last month, has claimed the lives of 28 people who died after drinking contaminated bootleg liquor. The police have charged over 50 people in connection with the case.
The police on Friday levelled charges of posing a threat to public safety against another distributor of methanol-laced bootleg liquor. A 54-year-old man from Zlín faces up to 20 years in prison, or even an exceptional sentence of life imprisonment, for distributing the deadly beverage mix. The police had earlier charged two distributors of methanol-laced liquor; in total, 40 people have been charged in the case of methanol poisonings which killed 28 people in the Czech Republic over the last month.
In related news, the police warned on Friday that 12,000 litres of methanol-laced liquor were still unaccounted for. The head of the special police team investigation the methanol crisis, Václav Kučera, said only 3,000 litres of the deadly beverage had been found to date. Mr Kučera also appealed to the public to exercise caution when drinking spirits, and said he himself had been very careful in doing so since the outbreak of the crisis.
Another patient has been admitted to hospital with methanol poisoning. Doctors say his condition is serious. It is not clear where he got the contaminated liquor. There are estimates that isolated cases of poisonings can appear up to 6 months after the crisis and people have been warned not to drink uncertified spirits they have at home. Meanwhile the police have arrested another salesperson who had contaminated bootleg liquor in his possession bringing the number of people charged to 26.
Relatives of poisoning victims in the recent methanol crisis are considering legal steps, news website idnes reports, either against those who illegally laced alcohol with methyl for profit, or the state. The website cited a woman in the Ostrava region who had already sought legal advice from a local association which has offered to advise relatives of victims even outside of regular working hours. The association expects they will be contacted by others seeking to sue for damages, the daily indicated. State prosecutor Roman Kafka has said that relatives have enough time to file legal complaints, but some, like noted lawyer Klará Samková, advised those seeking damages to not delay. Twenty-eight people died of methanol poisoning between September 14 and October 9, having consumed bootleg liquor that had been laced with deadly wood alcohol.
A new study by psychiatrists from Prague’s General Teaching Hospital suggests that the number of alcoholics in the Czech Republic is double the number previously thought: as many as 700,000 people reportedly have serious problems with alcohol in their daily lives, and only one percent are trying to tackle their addiction in detox programmes. The story was reported by Wednesday’s Lidové noviny, which outlined numerous alcohol-related problems from health (namely cirrhosis and other liver problems) but also, for example, job loss and domestic violence.
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