Adulterated alcohol kills 25 people to date in Costa Rica
Visitors and residents of Costa Rica should not let their guard down regarding adulterated alcohol. Two more deaths from methanol poisoning were reported this week by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health. The two latest deaths occurred in Santa Bárbara de Heredia and Santa Cruz de Guanacaste. The death total is now 25 and at least 59 patients have required hospital treatment for methanol poisoning.
In their campaign to stamp out the methanol-tainted liquor, Costa Rica authorities have seized more than 55,000 containers. The dead people include 19 men and six women, ages 32 to 72, the Health Surveillance Unit of the Ministry of Health reports. Among the dead are seven from San Jose, one from Alajuela, two from Heredia, five from Cartago, three from Guanacaste, one from Puntarenas, and four from Limón. The location of two deaths remains under investigation.
In addition to seizing fake liquor, Costa Rica has closed down 10 establishments in San Jose and Alajuela. Selling alcoholic drinks adulterated with methanol, and recent sanitary alerts, are reasons for the seizures and closures. Consumers should avoid the list of alcoholic brands that may be tainted with methanol.
According to the Costa Rican Ministry of Health, that list includes:
- Guaro Montano
- Guaro Chonete
- Guaro Cuerazo
- Guaro Sacheto
- Guaro Gran Apache
- Red Star Brandy
- Brandy Red Barnacle
- Brandy Tumbuka
- Brandy Molotov
The methanol poising death toll was 15 when reported two weeks ago on July 26. Costa Rica is home to 50,000 American expatriates and annually welcomes 1.7 million American tourists. According to the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica, no Americans are among the deaths. “The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica is aware of the reports regarding recent deaths in Costa Rica associated with the consumption of tainted alcohol. At this time, we are not aware of any U.S. citizen illness or death due to consuming adulterated alcohol in Costa Rica,” according to the embassy website.
Costa Rica has issued a national alert about the deaths from drinking toxic levels of methanol. Its first world tourism industry means Costa Rica has more to lose than many of the counties with a history of fake liquor incidents. The World Health Organization (WHO) says Cambodia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Libya, Nicaragua, Norway and Pakistan have had fake alcohol invasions.
The WHO warns consumers in these countries to approach alcoholic beverages with extreme caution. Methanol in small amounts is common in alcohol. But, too much methanol consumption will result in dizziness, amnesia, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and kidney failure. Methanol is used in antifreeze, fuels, paints and varnishes.
* In Coast Rica, bottle design and labeling are being used to make the spiked products seem legitimate.