Showing posts with label Poison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poison. Show all posts

June 30, 2019

10 Americans Dead In The Dominican Republic and The Cause Is Clear Adulterated Booze





Image result for Dominican republic hotel mini bar
 Which is yours? How badly do you want to die while  over paying for adulterated booz?
      By Trone Dowd 
      Vice         

Of the 10 Americans who have mysteriously died during their trips to the Dominican Republic in the last year, nine showed symptoms commonly associated with methanol poisoning.
Now, both Dominican authorities and the FBI are looking into a counterfeit alcohol as the possible culprit, officials confirmed to VICE News. 
The nine victims died from either pulmonary edema, the medical term for fluid in the lungs, or of a heart attack. At least four of them had drunk an alcoholic beverage at resorts in Punta Cana, Santo Domingo and La Romana shortly before their deaths, according to loved ones. In addition to the recent deaths, a number of other tourists, including 47 of the 114 Jimmy Buffet fans visiting the Caribbean island for a group trip, said they became sick during their stay at a resort on the island.
“I think what the authorities are investigating is what we in science call a credible hypothesis at this point,” said LeeAnn Jaykus, a food microbiologist at North Carolina State University. “If it were the right chemicals, it could result in many of the symptoms we’ve seen in many of the victims who have died.”
During a normal distillation process, alcohol producers perform a series of steps to isolate ethanol, the form of alcohol that’s safe to drink, from more toxic compounds. But without regulation, those producers might cut corners to reduce costs, which can be deadly. 
One of the byproducts of fermentation, methanol, gets people just as drunk as normal alcohol — but lethally damages the liver, the optic nerve, and neurological and respiratory systems. Oftentimes, once the consumer starts to notice they don’t feel right, it’s too late to reverse the effects.
"It’s actually quite dangerous."
Improper distillation can also leave traces of other poisonous compounds like formaldehyde; chloroform; formic acid, which is used in the processing of leather and other textiles; and acetone, found commonly in nail polish remover, according to Nathan Lent, a biology expert at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. 
“When you distill alcohol in an unregulated way, it’s actually quite dangerous,” Lent said. 
A spokesperson with the U.S. Embassy in the Dominican Republic told VICE News that “there will be no new information concerning the toxicology reports until the investigation is completed.” The FBI also declined to comment on any updates concerning the investigation.

NOT THE FIRST TIME 

Over in Mexico, more than 150 U.S. tourists reported passing out and vomiting shortly after consuming small amounts of alcohol at various resorts in Cancun, Los Cabos, Playa del Carmen and other cities between December 2017 and February 2018. 
Shortly afterward, local police seized a total of 19,700 gallons of bootleg liquor from black-market tequila operations throughout the country, although it’s unclear if the tourists’ illnesses were related. Of the gallons seized, 235 were found to contain lethal amounts of methanol.
A number of countries have also seen deaths from counterfeit alcohol in recent years, according to a 2018 report from the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking. Last year, 141 people in Indonesia died from drinking a tainted batch of local moonshine called “oplosan.” And in 2016, more than 70 people died in Russia after consuming a bath tincture commonly used by counterfeiters as a low-cost alcohol substitute. 
In the Dominican Republic, the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking reported that illicit alcohol makes up 29% of all alcohol in the nation. The report also found that distilled spirits make up 69% of the Dominican Republic’s black market for alcohol and estimated estimates bootleggers cost the country $262 million in revenue every year.
But the Dominican Republic’s Minister of Tourism Javier Garcia has insisted the island “a tranquil, peaceful destination and the safest in the region.” 
“In the last five years, the Dominican Republic has welcomed almost 30 million people, evidencing the large preference of visitors as well as the safety levels of the destination,” he said during a press conference earlier this month. “This also demonstrates these cases are isolated and regrettable. We ask the National Police to speed up as fast as possible the investigation into these cases.”

OTHER THEORIES

As far back as February, Patrick Quaid started noticing an uptick in tourists reporting that they too became ill at various resorts in the Dominican Republic to his open source website, IWasPoisoned.com. Now, he’s catalogued more than 1,000 cases. 
“As a comparison, we received 10 reports in total in all of 2018 for the Dominican Republic,” Quaid said. 
The State Department, however, told NBC News that officials haven't seen an "uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported." Since the site started in 2009, Quaid has used IWasPoisoned.com to successfully pinpoint harmful bacterial outbreaks around the world, including the 2015 E. coli outbreak at Chipotle restaurants, before they became widely reported epidemics. Both NPR and the New York Times noted that public health officials in more than 46 states have adopted the site as a tool to detect signs of potential food and drink related issues.
“In a case like this, media attention often makes more people aware that there is a place to report, and what we are seeing are real cases, that previously went unreported,” Quaid said.
Quaid said that a significant number of IWasPoisoned.com users who reported being sick in 2019 suspected the spraying of insecticides as the root of their illness. But both Quaid and Jaykus didn’t think that reason was plausible.
“Insecticide can make you sick, but you’d really need like massive doses of it,” Jaykus said. “It was a little mystifying to me as to how anyone could be getting that high a dose just by spraying the stuff around.”
Earlier this week, CNN also reported that more than a dozen people they interviewed say they got sick during their trip to the Dominican Republic after they smelled a powerful, chemical odor in their resort hotel rooms. They all also suffered from a number of strange symptoms including stomach cramps, nauceousness, uncontrollable drooling, and burning of the nose and throat immediately after noticing the scent. 
The New York PostThe Cut, and local stations in Texas and South Carolina, have all published stories from tourists who say they became ill during their visits to the Dominican Republic.

DETECTING FAKE BOOZE

As alcohol prices fluctuate around the world for any number of reasons, so does the interest in illegitimate spirits. In countries like the U.K., for example, fake booze started entering the market after the introduction of minimum pricing laws, which were meant to combat binge drinking culture, last year.
According to Safeproof.org, many bootleggers typically package and sell their products in emptied bottles of cheap alcohol and pass them off as authentic and safely processed liquors to distributors. 
But consumers can take a number of steps to avoid or even detect counterfeit alcohol.
One way, according to Lent, is to avoid cheaper liquors, particularly clear ones like gin and vodka. He said those types are easier to replicate because nearly all liquors, when distilled, come out clear. Counterfeiters then don’t have to worry about mimicking signature colors or consistencies in spirits like whiskey.
“These liquors are also the ones that tend to be mixed,” Lent said. “Think about your vodka sodas or your vodka and gin and tonics. This typically helps mask any funny flavors and smells that some counterfeit liquors have.”
Counterfeit liquors usually smell sweeter than regular alcohol thanks to the presence of methanol, chloroform, and acetone. Lent said people shouldn't be afraid to ask their bartender if they can take a whiff from the bottle they’re drinking from.
Consumers — or concerned bars and resorts selling alcohol — can also set a small amount on fire first. Ethanol, the part of alcohol that’s safe to drink, will burn blue, while methanol can burn green or orange, according to Lent.
“Anything that doesn’t burn blue is cause for concern,” Lent said. 
“Or just stick with beer,” he added. “You don’t see a lot of this stuff popping up with beer at all. And just in case, stick with beer that you know and are familiar with.”
Cover image: 5485054 26.04.2018 Raid by the police, regional security department and trade department to disclose sales of counterfeit alcohol in a Moscow grocery store. Maksim Blinov / Sputnik via AP

March 27, 2018

Russian Ambassadors Summoned to Several European Ministries with Imminent Expulsions Over UK Poisoning





Russian ambassadors have been summoned to several European foreign ministries amid reports of imminent diplomatic expulsions, reports say.
EU leaders agreed last week it was highly likely Russia was behind the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy and his daughter in the UK.
The bloc recalled its envoy to Moscow.
On Monday, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Poland summoned Russian ambassadors to their foreign ministries, officials were reported as saying.
An adviser to Lithuania's foreign minister confirmed to the BBC that the government had summoned the ambassador in Vilnius. 
No official reason has so far been given for the diplomatic action but a number of countries across the EU had been expected to expel Russian diplomats this week over the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on 4 March in Salisbury, southern England. The pair remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital.
Official statements from the European governments are expected on Monday afternoon.
Russia has denied outright any connection to the attack.
European Council President Donald Tusk said at the end of an EU summit on Friday that more than one country would expel diplomats "but I don't think that it will be the whole group".

Britain expelled 23 Russian diplomats last week who it said were spies, in the aftermath of the nerve agent attack. Russia has responded with tit-for-tat expulsions.
US President Donald Trump is also weighing whether to expel Russian diplomats, as recommended by the National Security Council, US media report. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has threatened to respond in kind.
Speaking during a visit Estonia, British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said the support shown for Britain was "itself a defeat for President Putin". Mr. Williamson said the Russian president wanted to divide nations but they were, in fact, uniting. 
Separately, in Poland, a government official has been detained on suspicion of providing information to Russia about how Warsaw planned to block the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which it opposes. 
The suspect had been in contact with Russian intelligence agents in Warsaw, state news agency PAP said. On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron called the use of the Soviet-era Novichok agent in Salisbury an "attack on European sovereignty".
German Chancellor Angel Merkel said co-ordinated measures among EU countries in response would be "necessary".
On Monday, ambassadors from EU member states were meeting in Brussels to discuss what diplomatic measures individual countries may be prepared to take against Russia.
"Decisions are in the hands of member states, done in a European framework, with decisions at a national level," a spokeswoman for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said.
There are divisions among the EU's 28 member states as to how far retaliatory measures against Russia should go.
Austria is among several countries that have already ruled out expelling diplomats.

BBC
It is adamfoxie's 10th🦊Anniversay. 10 years witnessing the world and bringing you a pieace whcih is ussually not getting its due coverage. 4.9 Million Reads

January 22, 2016

When your Government Kills you to save you money: Flint, Michigan




                                                                       


Free Press reporter Katrease Stafford spent Thursday talking to residents of Flint to find out how they are dealing with the city's water crisis, which has left them without potable water because of lead and other contamination in the lines that resulted when the city was switched from Detroit water to water drawn from the Flint River. It's a crisis that is drawing increased national attention and has put Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in the cross hairs of the controversy.

My wife has lupus. I don’t want her bathing in this.
 Thirsty Governor? Here this is for you!
Wiggins, 62, has lived in Flint for more than 50 years and said he's floored and disgusted with the handling of the city's water crisis. Wiggins was one of dozens who came to get a case of water, filters and lead testing kits at the fire station on Martin Luther King Blvd. in Flint Thursday.

"I quit drinking this water a long time ago," he said. "Why do we have to go through this? Everyone has to bathe in this. You can't use bottled water. It's not enough with them only giving out one at a time. My wife has lupus. I don't want her bathing in this. We don't want that stuff seeping into our skin. I mean, what type of affect does it really have on us?"

Wiggins said he's concerned for his sick wife, elderly mother and several other seniors who are unable to drive to get free water.

"What about them?" Wiggins said. "We've got a lot of elderly, home-bound people who can't get out. Who's helping them? The fact we even have to do this doesn't make sense."

Ready to pack up and leave

Maxine Perry is filled with dread and terror whenever she thinks about how long her family ingested potentially contaminated water at her Flint home.  
"We're just doing the best we can, all things considering," Perry, 59, said, as she watched a National Guard member distribute water at a Flint fire station. "But I'm about ready to pack up and leave. I am so terrified. I'm terrified for my children and their children. Just absolutely terrified."

Perry, who has lived in Flint for more than 40 years, has four children and said she can't help but worry about the impact the water has had on them and others throughout the city.


Michigan State Police and National Guard members gave Flint residents bottles water, filters and lead testing kits Jan. 21. Katrease Stafford Detroit Free Press

"You want to know the truly sad part of all of this?" Perry asked. "It's really our children. We don't yet fully know how this will change them. ... I'm not going to say Flint failed us, but the government failed us. We just don't know what to do. ... It's just not right."

"Someone is finally trying to help us"

Jaquetta Avery had a feeling something might have been wrong with her water when sores began to develop around her 14-year-old daughter's mouth every time she brushed her teeth.

Jaquette Avery, 30, inspects a bottle to get her water tested that she received along with a water filter and bottled water from National Guard Specialist Drew Cross, 24, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.  
"My oldest daughter, for some odd reason, she just kept getting these sores around her lips," Avery,30, recalled. "She said, 'Mama, it's only happening after I brush my teeth.' She's 14, she's a teenager, so she's old enough to know when something isn't right."

Avery was grateful Thursday when Michigan State Police and National Guard members knocked on her door to give her two cases of water, a filter and a test kit.

"I'm happy someone is finally trying to help us out," Avery said, while examining a kit she plans to use to test her water.

In late 2015, Avery switched over to just using bottled water for most of her family's daily needs, such as drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth. But Avery said it's costly to buy so much water when her family goes through two and a half cases of bottled water each day. Avery even uses bottled water to feed her dog because she's fearful it might get sick from the tap water.

"The kids, my four daughters, they were slipping up and using the tap water to brush their teeth and I told them no, go ahead and use the bottled water to brush your teeth," she said. "It's better to be safe than sorry.When we take showers, I tell them to be quick, don't prolong it."

Avery can't help but wonder why state officials were mum on the water crisis as time progressed.

"I feel like they knew this for quite some time and it wasn't right for us to be kept in the dark," Avery said. "My two youngest daughters, they're not paying attention but the two older ones, they think it's creeping them out. I personally just feel like,how and why did this happen? We need answers."

"I can't wash my kids or my grand kids"
Thousands of water bottles are being handed out of the Flint Fire Station 3 in Flint on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016. 
Robin Simpson is livid.

She's angry over what she believes is an inadequate response to Flint's water crisis from state officials.

And she's also mad that President Barack Obama didn't visit Flint during his trip to Michigan on Wednesday so he could personally witness residents' suffering. .

"It's sad to me that Obama came yesterday to Detroit yesterday, but he didn't show the right type of love," Simpson, 54, said. "We're 65 miles from Detroit and they could have brought him here first. even just 15 minutes, just to apologize for the suffering we're going through. Obama really hurt my feelings. Don't address us from Detroit, come here. It's sad we're going through this."

Simpson said her water "smells and is rusty."

"We got sick a lot," Simpson said, while rubbing her granddaughter's head. "It's said I can't wash the kids or my grandkids."

Simpson said several of her daughter's friends and their children believe they were sickened over the past several months from the water.

"One girl, her son just threw up a lot," Simpson said. "My daughter said, 'You have to stop drinking it, but we didn't have no free water. It's bad. I never thought this city would go through this. It used to be a beautiful place for you to buy a home."

“I don't know who to blame"                          
 (GOP) Gov. Rick Snyder
"The Governor of the state of Michigan has been aware of the problem for two years when the first report came out indicating high levels of lead in the water. The city made a cost measure switch by switching the reservoir of drinking water. Why bring it from another municipality when we have it here? That was being done because the water they had in Flint was bad to start with. It looked bad, it smell rotten and it had a silent killer. These facts were kept secret by the Governor and a few that would not rock the boat.”* 
National Guard PFC Kyle Holmes hands over a water filter to Kathryn Brown, 57, who says that she even gives her cat bottled water, in Flint on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.  
Kathryn Brown stopped drinking her water about a year ago after a thick, black-colored sludge began to come out of her kitchen faucet.

Brown, scared and confused, had no clue what was going on, but her family immediately decided to stop consuming the water.

"I'll tell you, we don't even use that water for our cats," Brown, 57, said. "It's a really funky, black-ish, gray mess."

Brown said it was hard at first to get used to used so much bottled water daily, but it's become part of her life.

"The response from the National Guard has been wonderful," Brown said, standing in her door Thursday as she watched National Guard members knock on her neighbors' doors. "But beyond that, I don't know who to blame or whose to blame. It's a shame that our ex-mayor just went right along with everything that's happening now."

Drinking and bathing in "poison"

Robert Jackson wishes he heeded the multiple warnings from friends and family who implored him not drink the "poison" running through the faucet of his Flint home.

Flint resident Robert Jackson, 54, shows of some marks left on his arm that he believes are the result of drinking contaminated Flint tap water at Flint Fire Station 3 in Flint, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016.  
Not listening their warnings came with a painful price.

A large, painful blistery rash on his upper left arm, to be exact.

"I was steady drinking it," Jackson said, as he took off his coat to show the rash." My mother and them said, 'Don't drink it,' but I saw the mayor drinking it so I thought it was OK if he was. But then all of a sudden, last summer, I got a bunch of red bumps and it started getting bigger and bigger."

That was enough to force Jackson to quit drinking the water, but he still has remnants of the rash on his arm.

"It's nerve-wracking," Jackson said. "I've been taking a bath in this stuff, been drinking it, cooking with it. I didn't know it was that bad."

Jackson said he's worried about his dog because he's been forced to continue to give him the water because he can't afford to buy more bottled water.

"I've been giving it to my dog," he said. "But I've got a big bucket under my garage and when it fills up with the rainwater, I give him that."

He said Flint residents feel betrayed.

"I think everybody is upset,"Jackson said. “To get a surprise like this and find out you're drinking poison and washing up in it, it's wrong."

, Detroit Free Press

September 13, 2013

Syria Moving Chems to Lebanon, Iraq (under Rebel Gen.)


  Foot in The Mouth Diplomacy;;;Would it Work? So Far…."steady as she goes" The Captain would say

General Salim Idris, commander of the opposition Free Syrian Army
WASHINGTON, September 12 (RIA Novosti) – A general in the opposition Syrian Free Army on Thursday accused the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad of moving its chemical weapons out of the country, even as US and Russian diplomats held talks on a Russian proposal to get Syria to place those weapons under international control. 
“We have information that the regime began to move chemical materials and chemical weapons to Lebanon and Iraq, and that is very, very dangerous,” Gen. Salim Idris said in an interview with CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour, adding that the rebels fear the Assad regime will “use these weapons against us.”
Idris spoke to CNN as US Secretary of State John Kerry began talks in Geneva with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Russia’s plan to secure Syria’s chemical weapons and prevent them from being used again in the Middle East country’s civil war.
The United States said it was prepared to launch limited military strikes on Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that Washington has blamed on the Assad regime. Syria and its ally, Russia, have denied the accusation, blaming the attack on rebels.
In a separate interview that aired earlier Thursday on National Public Radio (NPR), Idris said that “the Russian initiative” to prevent a US strike on Syria by getting Damascus to surrender its chemical weapons stocks “is just a lie, and the Russian administration, especially President Putin and Sergei Lavrov, are playing games.”
“They know that the regime in Damascus is a criminal regime,” Idris told NPR, accusing Assad of “killing his own people, using Scud missiles, using chemical materials, the air force to kill everything.” 
In the NPR interview, Idris denied US media reports that the CIA has begun delivering weapons to the Syrian opposition, but when he spoke to Amanpour later, he refused to comment on whether US arms were getting through to the rebels after months of delays.
“We are getting now a lot of support from our American friends. We received some laptops, communication equipment, medicine, food – but I can’t talk about weapons, please,” he told CNN.
A report in the Washington Post on Thursday said shipments of light weapons and munitions from the United States “began streaming into Syria over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear.” The Wall Street Journal ran a similar report.
In both interviews, Idris said Syrian opposition fighters were “very frustrated” that US President Barack Obama had this week decided to delay seeking congressional approval for targeted US military strikes against Syria to give the talks in Geneva and a debate in the UN Security Council a chance to ensure that chemical weapons are not used again in Syria.
Opposition fighters “told me yesterday, ‘We can’t understand why Russia and the Iranians are supporting the regime so clearly and our friends are delaying and hesitating,’” he said on NPR.
Obama had indicated nearly two weeks ago that the United States was planning limited military strikes against Syria to hold the Assad regime accountable for allegedly using chemical weapons against civilians in an attack on Aug. 21, and to prevent further such attacks.
Russia has said repeatedly that the United States has no evidence to show the Syrian government was behind the attack. The Syrian government only admitted to having any chemical weapons at all after the Russian proposal was put on the table earlier this week.
Updates with claims of chemical weapons being moved, talks with Kerry.

April 22, 2013

China is Killing It’s Own People } Fake Alcohol!




Two days before Christmas, Chinese authorities led a raid in the capital city. Their findings would be shocking, had it been anywhere but China: 37,000 bottles of counterfeit alcohol, destined for Bar Street in Sanlitun, a popular drinking hub for expats in Beijing.
A gang of counterfeiters had apparently been collecting empty bottles of genuine alcohol, refilling them with a cheap substitute from who knows where, and then reselling them to bars. The police arrested a handful of people, but expats suspected the bar owners had been complicit, too — how else could they afford to offer their famously strong “10 kuai drinks” (U.S. $1.61)?


China is notorious for forgeries and counterfeits. Earlier this year, the China Bee Products Association claimed that half of all honey sold in the mainland is fake. Kunming in Yunnan Province brims with artificial Apple shops, converted overnight to “Smart Stores” throughout the duration of government campaigns to stamp out intellectual-property violationsBefore the final Harry Potter book was released in 2007, J. K. Rowling knockoffs, including Harry Potter and the Crystal Vase and Harry Potter and Leopard Walk Up to Dragon, made their way to Chinese bookstores, as CBS reported.

Shops at the Beijing Silk Market hawk everything from fake Adidas to fake Gucci. And near Drum Tower, I once saw a gift shop selling a suitcase full of phony American hundred-dollar bills.


Alcohol is yet another item that’s frequently counterfeited. Joe Passanante, an American doctor based in Beijing, tells me that “from what I’ve seen clinically, [counterfeit alcohol] seems to be a widespread problem,” adding that “being a physician, I think it’s personally happened to me.”


Like melamine-tainted milk and counterfeit pharmaceuticals, China’s fake alcohol can carry significant health risks. Sometimes, it’s merely an inferior alcohol — think two-buck Chuck — being substituted and sold as a pricier one. But counterfeiters also use chemically distinct alcohol that’s dangerous if consumed. It’s generally made from one of three bases: ethylene glycol, which is essentially antifreeze, attacks the kidneys and heart and is potentially fatal; methanol, which attacks the retinal nerve and can result in blindness; and isopropyl alcohol, more commonly known as rubbing alcohol.


Passanante says that from what he’s seen, he suspects most of the counterfeit alcohol in Beijing is isopropyl alcohol — though “we never know. There’s no specific test for it. . . . If it doesn’t kill you the night you drink it, most people will be fine.” The clearest indications are a slightly fruity breath smell and a crippling hangover the next morning, Passanante says.


As little as 250 milliliters — just over a cup — of isopropyl alcohol causes heavy intoxication and can reportedly be fatal, though people have survived after drinking much more. Passing out, imbibers can enter a coma. Those who die after drinking isopropyl alcohol generally drown in their own vomit or saliva. And “there are a lot of what appear to be responsible people ending up in a coma,” Passanante says.


Jeff Gi, an expert mixologist and the owner of Beijing’s Mai Bar, tells me he’s been approached by vendors who offered him fake liquor at hugely discounted prices. Known for his dedication to cocktail perfection — Gi often takes five minutes to fine-tune even the simple Hendricks and tonic — Mai Bar uses only genuine alcohol.


“But a lot of people use fake alcohol because they want to save money, and it’s cheap,” Gi says. “They don’t care about the quality or their customer’s experience . . . and they don’t care if you come back or not.”


Like any black-market product, China’s counterfeit alcohol is hard to quantify. Some big liquor producers collect their own statistics on the prevalence of alcohol counterfeiting, but they keep them secret, fearing their brand might become associated with fakery and therefore altogether avoided in China’s huge and emerging consumer-goods market, says Marjana Martinic, the deputy president of the International Center for Alcohol Policies.
The few estimates that have emerged are disturbing. George Chen, a restaurateur who specializes in wine, toldTimeOut Shanghai that his best guess is that up to 80 percent of the city’s alcohol isn’t genuine — either not meant for consumption or an inferior substitute marketed as a higher-priced brand. The chief executive of Brown-Forman, maker of Jack Daniels, has claimed that one-third of the alcohol consumed globally is produced illicitly. And the World Health Organization has found that in Southeast Asia, homebrew or other illegally procured beverages account for 69 percent of overall alcohol consumption.


Even anecdotally, it’s evident that fake alcohol is a big problem in China. Barely a month after the December 23 crackdown, Beijing police busted a bigger ring, arresting 88 suspects and confiscating counterfeit alcohol worth $861,000. The state-run media reported in February that a single public-security officer was responsible for monitoring the alcohol quality in more than 20 Sanlitun bars, and when I was there in March 2013, 10-kuai drinks were still abundantly available.


 Nor is alcohol counterfeiting limited to Beijing. Last November, authorities in Zhejiang Province discovered 10,000 bottles of fake Château Lafite Rothschild, valued at around $16 million. China’s nouveau riche crave wine as a status symbol, and sometimes the flamboyant display of wealth is more pleasurable than taste; the BBC has reported that around 70 percent of the Château Lafite bottles sold in China aren’t the real thing.     

Two years ago, Chinese police reported that at least $33,800 in fake booze had been sold around Shanghai before 25 people were caught and arrested. In Huaihua, Hunan Province, police found counterfeit alcohol valued at $675,000 in 2011; and in Shoaxing City, Zhejiang Province, police broke up a $305 million operation that had sold counterfeit alcohol in 97 Chinese cities. The China Daily reported that the suspects “had allegedly poured cheap liquors into real containers . . . that they had bought from liquor vendors and rag pickers.” And those are just a few examples.


Counterfeit alcohol is not only dangerous — it’s also harmful to businesses, which are already contending with China’s complicated and often corrupt economic system.


“It’s a nightmare. It’s an absolute nightmare,” says Charlie, a veteran bartender in China who works at The Stumble Inn in Sanlitun, who declined to give his last name. “The fake booze hurts. If you poured it in your car, it would probably work. I’ve siphoned petrol out of a car before, and it was a more pleasant taste. But it’s a roaring trade. It’s a 10-kaui mojito, and people are cheap.”


Charlie tells me that fake alcohol presents “a massive problem, especially when you’re trying to run a good, clean establishment.” There’s the competition factor — a rum and Coke at Stumble Inn costs about 45 yuan, compared to 10 yuan for a drink of questionable origin across the street. Moreover, customers bar-hop in Sanlitun, starting the night out at Stumble Inn and ending up at a less reputable establishment. The next morning, they show up with a brutal hangover, and they want to blame Charlie for selling them fake booze.


Stumble Inn has coped by establishing a reputation for an honest drink. Each bottle of liquor is examined. The latest labeling information from the company is scrutinized, and the liquor is taste- and smell-tested before it’s served. Whenever possible, the bar uses vendors recommended by the liquor companies. When it can’t, it instead consults with other expat bars to find a supplier with a good reputation. Stumble Inn also withholds 40 to 60 percent of suppliers’ payments for at least 30 days, and if even one fake is discovered, “we stop dealing with them immediately, and they will not be paid,” Charlie says. He estimates the bar spends more than $800 a month on quality control for food and drinks.


Vouching for the integrity of alcohol can be difficult for suppliers, too, though. Chinese manufacturers expert in forging have been known to produce not only counterfeit bottles and counterfeit liquor — some also counterfeit the customs stamps and certifications that are supposed to mark the real deal.


Consequently, China’s bartenders have come up with their own tests. One tells me that Jack Daniels “is the benchmark. If they’re using it, I can smell it and I can taste it. It’s the most unique-smelling alcohol there is.” An additional perk? If it’s real, Jack Daniels will leave a white band around the perimeter of a glass when it’s mixed with Coca-Cola. The fake version doesn’t. Bombay and tonic is also a good test, bartenders tell me, because it has a slightly bluish tint when exposed to light. And seasoned drinkers can often taste the difference, too.


Of course, the fact that bartenders and bar owners feel the need to do their own diligence is telling. China’s black market in counterfeit goods challenges not only the health of its people but also its legitimate economy. It’s essentially a short-sighted approach   economics. And like fake alcohol, it can be expected to end in one hell of a hangover.
— Jillian Kay Melchior is a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity

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