"There have been reports of individuals falling ill or blacking out after consuming unregulated alcohol," the U.S. State Department says in its Mexico travel advisory

By Benjamin VanHoose
May 14, 2020 10:50 AM
Empty beer refrigerators at a store in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, this month. Shuttered breweries have led to widespread beer shortages
A man looks for a soda following the shortage of beer, after breweries countrywide closed production due to the coronavirus in Monterrey, state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, on May 5.
| Credit: JULIO CESAR AGUILAR/AFP via Getty Images

A number of deaths in Mexico have been linked to unregulated alcohol after many areas of the country have implemented drinking bans to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

According to The New York Times, at least 70 people have died since mid-April, with their causes of death believed to be due to drinking tainted alcohol purchased on the black market. The deaths come after some parts of Mexico implemented laws against purchasing spirits to try to squash citizens from gathering for parties and spreading the coronavirus.

About 20 of the deaths presumed to be from methanol poisoning were in Puebla, according to The Guardian, and authorities closed the stores thought to be distributing the tainted drinks. Officials seized about 50 gallons.

Some beer-making plants were also deemed nonessential during the global health crisis, according to Reuters, reducing the breweries' output in recent weeks.

Per the U.S. State Department's travel advisory for Americans heading to Mexico, there have been reports of people "falling ill or blacking out" from drinking the homemade alcohol.

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"If you choose to drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill," the advisory reads. "There have been reports of individuals falling ill or blacking out after consuming unregulated alcohol."

Last summer, the Dominican Republican and Costa Rica dealt with similar deadly tainted-alcohol situations, with toxic levels of methanol being reported in liquor.

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Methanol — which is typically found in antifreeze, varnishes and fuels — is often added to counterfeit or informally made alcoholic drinks, according to the World Heath Organization.

“Some illicitly-produced drinks are made to appear legitimate through bottle design and labelling and consumers can be misled into believing they are buying a genuine brand of alcohol,” WHO warned of methanol poisoning outbreaks. “Bottles may be sold in shops, markets and bars, often at a ‘bargain’ price.”

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