Tainted Alcohol Kills 19 in Costa Rica, Ministry Says, Urging Caution

By Wire Service Content

Nineteen people have died from consuming alcohol tainted with toxic levels of methanol in Costa Rica, where the Ministry of Health issued a national alert.

Fourteen men and five women ranging from 32 to 72 years old have died in several cities across the country since the beginning of June, the ministry said.

The government has confiscated about 30,000 bottles of alcohol suspected to be tainted, affecting several brands.

The Ministry of Health advised against consuming alcohol from a number of brands because samples had tested positive for methanol adulteration.

Adulterated liquor often contains methanol, which can make people feel inebriated. Adding methanol to distilled spirits enables sellers to increase the amount of liquid and its potential potency, according to SafeProof, a group that lobbies against counterfeit alcohol.

Methanol poisoning can cause confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and the inability to coordinate muscle movements. Even small amounts can be toxic.

According to the World Health Organization, outbreaks of methanol poisoning are usually linked to “adulterated counterfeit or informally-produced spirit drinks.”

Outbreaks have hit countries around the world in recent years, each ranging in size from 20 to over 800 victims, WHO reports.

Health authorities in Costa Rica have called on the public to exercise caution when consuming alcohol.

Tragedy in India

This year, at least 154 people died and more than 200 others were hospitalized after drinking tainted alcohol in India. The victims consumed unregulated moonshine, known as “country-made liquor” in the northeast state of Assam.

“We have still more than 170 people admitted in hospitals with new patients being brought in from nearby areas. Some developed complications two days after consuming the liquor,” Assam’s health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told Reuters in February 2019.

“We have sent samples for forensic examinations to ascertain the ingredients used in that particular lot of spurious liquor that led to the deaths of so many people,” he added.

Pakistani custom officials look on as a steamroller smash bottles of alcohol at the Wagah border between Pakistan and India on January 26, 2019, to mark the International Custom day. (Arif AliI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Assam liquor tragedy comes almost two weeks after more than 100 people died from drinking tainted alcohol in two northern Indian states, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, in the worst such case in the country since 2011.

Deaths from illegally-produced alcohol, known locally as “hooch” or “country liquor,” are a regular occurrence in India, where many cannot afford branded spirits.

In Assam, bootleg liquor production and consumption is usually found in and around the state’s tea plantations where it is consumed by poorly-paid laborers.

There were about 10 different distilleries producing the spurious liquor that went to various tea plantations and other areas, said Mrinal Saikia, a local lawmaker from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules Assam and the country.

Epoch Times reporter Jack Phillips and Reuters contributed to this report.

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