The methanol content of illicit alcoholic beverages seized in a low socio-economic area of Tel-Aviv: public health impact and policy implications
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To identify the presence and concentration of methanol in illegal alcoholic beverages sold commercially in a low socio-economic area of Tel-Aviv. Additionally, we aim to assess if findings represent an existing risk for public health in the area.
Subjects and methods
Ministry of Health Division of Enforcement and Inspection personnel carried out a series of inspections in grocery stores and kiosks in two adjacent neighborhoods of low socio-economic status: Neve Sha’anan and Hatikvah. Twenty-six samples of illicit drinks were identified, seized, and then analyzed for the presence and concentration of methanol.
Alcohol products seized were spirits labeled as vodka, brandy, arak and “scotch flavor” drinks, which contained an average of 36.608% volume of ethanol. Methanol was detected in 15 samples. Methanol concentration levels varied considerably, from 12 to 4534 g/hl. Data of hospital emergency department visits revealed that only nine cases of methanol toxicity were reported for years 2014–2017, and none of them by area hospitals.
We identified the sale of alcoholic beverages with high methanol content in the disadvantaged areas of Tel-Aviv, though hospitalization data does not reveal a high prevalence of cases involving methanol toxicity. This may be related to misreporting or underreporting by area emergency rooms. Policy implications include the need to inform local shopkeepers and shop-owners on labeling regulations, and make information and health warnings accessible to the foreign-born population residing in the area. A larger sample is needed to determine the extent of the sale of methanol-containing illicit alcoholic beverages.
KeywordsMethanol Unrecorded alcohol Counterfeit alcohol Methanol toxicity Alcohol policy Surrogate alcohol
We wish to thank the analytical lab team in the Institute for Standardization and Control of Pharmaceuticals for their material support and professional guidance.
No separate funding was used specifically for this study.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
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