NEWARK - Thousands of bodegas and small grocery stores across New Jersey could be selling an alcoholic beverage that state officials worry could easily be purchased by children.
The product is called Extracto de Malta, and it contains up to 4 percent alcohol, about the same as light beer. Kane In Your Corner found it for sale at one supermarket in Elizabeth, in a display with a non-alcoholic soft drink known as "malta," which is popular in the Latino community.
The Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control has charged two men with selling Extracto De Malta to bodegas. Officials say they have no evidence the bodegas know the product contains alcohol, even though the bottles have a surgeon general's warning printed on the back.
Frederico Guzman, manager of the grocery store in Elizabeth where we found the product for sale, told News 12 New Jersey's Walt Kane that he thought it was "like regular Malta. I didn't know about the alcohol." He promised to stop selling it, and even took the bottles off shelves on camera.
Michael Halfacre, director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, says stores have until Sept. 1 to get the product off shelves. After that, owners could face a $1,000 fine or up to three years in jail.