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Sanlitun bars' bogus booze 'not harmful to health'

By Xie Wenting  (Global Times)

10:45, January 09, 2013

A customer makes sure he slurps the last drop at a Sanlitun bar. (Photo: Li Hao/GT)

The fake alcohol confiscated by police in recent raids that was destined for bars in the capital's popular Sanlitun bar street is not harmful to health, claimed the Beijing office of the International Federation of Spirits Producers (IFSP) Tuesday.

Chen Yuhui, manager of IFSP, which was founded in London by a consortium of liquor makers, said it cooperated with Beijing police in busting gangs that were supplying fake beer and spirits to bars.

IFSP has done a thorough examination on the confiscated alcohol, said Chen, which showed the drinks are not poisonous but merely of inferior quality.

Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau arrested 12 people when they raided five gangs in Tongzhou and Chaoyang districts on December 23, and confiscated 37,000 bottles fake alcohol worth 1.1 million yuan ($176,440). This included brands such as Chivas, Carlsberg and Jack Daniels.

The suspects allegedly told police they had recycled or purchased the bottles of liquor, then bought cheap base liquor to refill them, which was sold on to three Sanlitun bars, the names of which were not revealed.

"It's hard for customers to distinguish real liquor from fake, and customers should pay close attention to the labeling and ask for receipts," said Chen.

Tong Jiang, senior bartending tutor from the Beijing Pei Yan Bartending School, said that fake alcohol may not harm people's health if industrial alcohol or ingredients such as food coloring have not been added excessively.

However, doctor Chen Xinguo, from the Organ Transplantation Research Institute of the General Hospital of Armed Police Forces in Haidian district, said drinking inferior alcohol can still be harmful, eventually causing liver disease.

"If people feel uncomfortable after drinking suspected inferior alcohol, they should stop drinking alcohol, and consult a doctor for treatment," said Chen Xinguo.

Lee Mitchell, owner of The Brick in Shuangjing, revealed that in the industry, "the smaller independent suppliers will ask, 'Do you want real or fake booze?' The suppliers will try to slip a few bottles through. The way I learned to deal with it, if I find one fake bottle of liquor, we won't pay for it."

According to Lee, if you only pay 10 yuan for a mixed drink such as a rum and coke, you would know it must be fake. Anything less than 25 yuan for a drink such as Jim Beam or Jack Daniels and coke would also certainly be fake.

While Lee admitted it is almost impossible to detect fake alcohol in a mixed drink, he said for bottles, if it doesn't make a "cracking" sound when you open it, or if you sniff it and get a burning sensation in your throat, then it is likely to be fake.

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