Belarus pubs urged to sell cow-blood snacks

Unwrapped hematogen bars Image copyright Wikimedia/Sergei Frolov
Image caption Hematogen snack bars are often marketed as nutritious snacks for children

A bar owner in the Belarusian capital Minsk was surprised to receive a visit from the local health department asking him to stack iron-rich snacks on his counter - specifically hematogen, which is made with cow blood.

The landlord, Yuri, showed the Onliner website a photo of the official's letter, which noted a "low take-up" in Minsk of goods made by the Ekzon state-run health supplement company. It "recommends that at least three types of hematogen bar, as well as rosehip and rowanberry syrup, should be displayed for sale on the counter".

Sweetened hematogen bars, containing a sterilised cow-blood extract, were popular with children in the Soviet Union, but Yuri isn't sure they'll appeal to modern pub-goers. "Today we suggest you try a vanilla hematogen bar with your beer. Or how about a pina colada made with coconut hematogen? We also have an exclusive range of rosehip syrup cocktails. They must be having a laugh," he complains.

Onliner contacted Minsk's health department, which didn't think it was a laughing matter. "What's wrong? If you stock chocolate bars, why not hematogen," said one official, explaining it's all part of a drive to offer customers healthy alternatives.

This isn't the first time the authorities have urged pubs to stock Ekzon goodies. Back in June, the health department in the western city of Homel sent bar owners a similar letter, and met with the same mockery, Naviny newspaper reported.

Ekzon's director, Pyotr Lukyanavich, told Belapan news agency at the time that he was concerned that the public preferred "lower-quality" Russian hematogen. "When traders say foreign chocolate bars sell better, I'm frankly amazed - where do they think they live?" he asked, adding that he saw nothing wrong with "a little protectionism" to boost his sales.

Photo used under Creative Commons licence.

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