Officials in Costa Rica are warning people who are planning travel to the Central American nation to exercise caution when drinking due to a number of recent deaths related to consumption of alcoholic beverages.
A recorded 19 people have died in Costa Rica after they drank alcohol that was tainted with toxic levels of methanol, which has prompted the Ministry of Health to issue a national alert, according to CNN.
Since early June, the victims, who ranged in age from 32 to 72 years old, have died across several cities throughout the country. The government has confiscated roughly 30,000 bottles of alcohol, which include multiple brands suspected of being tampered with. In addition, the nation’s Ministry of Health is advising residents and tourists against consuming alcohol from several brands for the immediate future, as the brands have tested positive for methanol adulteration, the news outlet reported.
The Ministry of Health website says, in Spanish, that brands including “Guaro Gran Apache”, “Red Star Brandy”, “Guaro Montano,” and others may have been counterfeited and the difficulty in distinguishing the real products from the phony ones could allow them to circulate to consumers.
SafeProof, an organization that warns of the dangers of counterfeit alcohol, explained to CNN that “adulterated liquor” often contains methanol, an ingredient that can make people feel inebriated. Additionally, adding methanol to spirits allows sellers to increase the amount of liquid and hike its potential potency even further. Methanol poisoning is particularly dangerous as it can be toxic and cause dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and an inability to control or coordinate muscle movements.
Methanol poisoning outbreaks can be linked to “adulterated counterfeit or informally-produced spirit drinks,” according to the World Health Organization.
This most recent outbreak in Costa Rica mirrors similar outbreaks in recent years that have impacted numerous countries around the world, and resulted in between 20 to over 800 victims in each case, WHO reports.
Earlier this year, 154 people died in India and 200 more were injured and hospitalized after consuming tainted liquor. The victims drank unregulated moonshine, known as “country-made liquor” in the northeast state of Assam, according to CNN.