Top Russian doctor accuses brewers of spiking beer
Russia's top drug and alcohol specialist accused brewers on Friday of adding pure alcohol to their product, a charge rejected by firms in the latest spat between the industry and regulators, Reuters reported.
"In general, (Russian) beer and tinned low alcohol cocktails are a pure chemical weapon. Alcohol is added at a certain stage of production to make it stronger," Russia's chief narcologist Yevgeny Bryun was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.
Russia has tripled excise duties on beer as part of President Dmitry Medvedev's campaign to curb alcohol abuse, a measure which brewers complain will lead to mass lay-offs. [ID:nL662781]
Officials are also considering whether to ban beer sales via kiosks and even exercise state monopoly on alcohol sales.
Bryun did not mention any brewers by name, but in an earlier interview with Interfax, he said alcohol was being added to strong beers to speed up the fermentation process.
The Russian Beer Union said Bryun's comments were misleading and asked him to publicly retract.
"It creates an impression that (the comments) have something else as an object rather than Russians' health," Daniil Briman, vice-president of corporate affairs at Russia's top brewer, Carlsberg-owned
Bryun was speaking ahead of Russia's lengthy New Year and Orthodox Christmas holidays, due to last from Jan. 1 to 11. As a rule, the winter festivities are marked by bumper alcohol consumption.
The Lancet medical journal in June published research which showed cheap and illicit alcohol killed more than half of Russian men and women aged between 15 and 54.
Vodka remains the most popular alcoholic beverage and many people mix it with beer.
Multinational corporations such as Carlsberg, SABMiller
Beers rated as having an alcohol content in excess of 8.6 percent currently account for about one percent of the market, a sector which escaped the most drastic excise duty hike and which is set to sees its market share rise.
In August, Medvedev said he was shocked by official data showing the average Russian drank 18 litres (38 pints) of pure alcohol each year.