Lawmakers demanded action be taken against underground liquor factories yesterday at a press conference after a number of incidents in which unscrupulous merchants passed off bootleg alcohol branded as Kinmen Kaoliang, rice wine and even red wine.
Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Legislator Lo Chih-ming (羅志明) said he was prompted to hold yesterday's press conference after a constituent was hospitalized after unwittingly drinking some of the alcohol at a seafood restaurant on Nov. 5.
Consumers currently have no way of telling whether or not the alcohol they are drinking is safe since illegal breweries go to great lengths to disguise their products as familiar brands, Lo said.
"Do we have to wait until we're hospitalized to find out that we were served bad alcohol?" Lo said.
Presented with two bottles of bootleg and one bottle of genuine Kaoliang, Lee Chin-tsai (李進財), the Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corporation representative at the press conference, admitted that it was extremely difficult to tell bootleg liquor from the real thing.
In a recent case, the police seized 450 bottles of bootleg Kinmen Kaoliang from a factory in Pingtung. An estimated 10,000 bottles of bootleg liquor are estimated to have entered the market from that factory.
Television coverage of the bust showed the bootlegger's black Benz sedan parked outside the factory packed with bottles, distillation equipment and other materials.
In another recent case, 6,000 bottles of counterfeit red wine touted as French red wine were found by Tainan police in a factory in Changhua County on Nov. 1.
Excessive levels of methanol in bootleg liquor could endanger the drinker's health, said Yang Chen-chang (楊振昌), a toxicologist at Taipei Veterans General Hospital.
Methanol is much more harmful than ethanol, the substance usually referred to as alcohol, Yang said.