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Putin demands tougher regulation as death toll in Siberia poisoning case rises

The Russian president has called for stricter rules to govern alcohol products, after 62 people died from drinking contaminated bath oil in Siberia. Such products are sometimes used as cheap sources of alcohol.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, on Wednesday demanded a crackdown on dangerous substitutes for alcoholic drinks after 62 people died in Siberia from drinking bath oil laced with methylated spirit. 

A state of emergency was declared in the city of Irkutsk on Monday after it was found that scores of people had consumed the hawthorn-scented oil as a cheap alternative to alcohol. The label on the bottle advertised an ethanol content of 93 percent. Thirty-six people remain in hospital.

Russland Irkutsk Alkoholvergiftungen (picture-alliance/dpa/K. Shipitsin)

Nearly 40 people are still receiving hospital treatment

It is not uncommon among Russia's poorest communities for people to drink cheap substitute spirits, which are usually produced in illegal facilities. While these habits have led to poisonings in the past, the Irkutsk case is on an unprecedented scale.

Crackdown on alcohol substitutes

Putin asked his cabinet to tighten regulations for the production and sale of liquid products - such as drinks, perfumes and medicines - that have an alcohol content higher than 25 percent.

Beauty products and home-made spirits are currently subject to looser regulation than standard alcoholic drinks.

Officials in Irkutsk confiscated more than 5,000 liters (1,300 gallons) of the bath oil. A total of 12 people have been detained in connection with the incident, including two owners of a workshop where the oil, as well as various brands of bootleg vodka, were being manufactured.

While bootleggers had reportedly been selling the bath oil for some time, it emerged that the batch that caused the mass poisoning was contaminated with a toxic substance found in cleaning products and paint stripper.

Watch video 01:39

New Russian vodka tax could harm alcoholics

rls/rc (Reuters)

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