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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 12:38 GMT
Fake alcohol causes Turkey deaths
By Pam O'Toole
BBC regional analyst

Raki bottles
Aniseed flavour raki is considered a national drink in Turkey
Health officials in Turkey say at least 21 people have now died after drinking counterfeit raki.

A major operation is under way to withdraw and replace millions of bottles of the strong alcoholic aniseed drink in shops and markets.

The counterfeit batch is reported to have contained up to 200 times the permitted amount of methyl alcohol.

The outbreak of poisoning has caused deep unease as many Turks regard raki as their national drink.

The deaths occurred after bootleggers apparently stole labels from genuine raki bottles and stuck them onto bottles of their fake product.

Tax blamed

Most of the deaths were in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, but thousands of bottles of counterfeit raki have been seized in police raids across the country.

Raki bottle
Manufacturers have produced new labels to show bottles are genuine
Mey Drinks - a major distributor of the official product - is recalling millions of bottles from shops and markets and destroying them.

On Wednesday, the company said it had started to re-stock markets in Istanbul with fresh bottles of raki with a new cap which it described as more secure.

Some bar owners have alleged that increasingly high taxes on alcohol may have encouraged the spread of potentially dangerous bootleg distilleries. But the Turkish government has brushed aside such suggestions and has ruled out reducing taxes.


SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Turkey
09 Mar 05 |  Country profiles



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