- Photo via Ministry of Health -

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Published on Tuesday,  November 23, 2021
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The Ministry of Health reported that so far this year, 47 people were treated in public hospitals due to methanol poisoning after drinking tainted liquor, of which 20 died (16 men and 4 women) where the ages range from 25 to 76.

During this year, ministry officials have inspected 504 stores as part of the investigation into allegations of the sale of products contaminated with methanol, where agents have seized 11,908 products, 3,226 containers, and analyzed 821 bottles of alcoholic beverages and multi-purpose alcohols.

In 2020, 48 people died after drinking liquor poisoned with methanol. So far, there have been no reports of international tourists being affected by the wave of deaths and illnesses.

The issue of smuggled liquor contaminated with methanol has been ongoing in the country. The ministry established a health alert on the following 12 brands:

• Chonete.
• Cuerazo.
• Sacheto.
• Gran Apache.
• Estrella Roja Aguardiente.
• Montano.
• Barσn Rojo.
• Timbuka.
• Molotov.
• Fiesta Blanca.
• Wash & CO Alcohol 80% (alcohol-based cleaning brand).
• Alcohol BDS (alcohol-based cleaning brand).
• Alcohol Brisas del Valle (alcohol-based cleaning brand).

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, was originally produced by the distillation of wood, hence the name “wood alcohol.” The substance is sometimes created accidentally by bootleggers trying to produce ethanol, the type of alcohol usually found in beer, wine, and liquor. Sometimes, methanol is added to ethanol for boosting its effect.

Because of its toxic properties, methanol was frequently used as a denaturant additive for ethanol manufactured for industrial uses to prevent the liquid from being used for drinking.

Symptoms of methanol poisoning can develop almost immediately after consumption. Symptoms include rapid drunkenness, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, severe headache, and lack of coordination.

Specialists recommend the following:

• Do not drink or buy liquor of the aforementioned brands until the alert is lifted.

• The sale of these products is forbidden until the alert is lifted.

• Report the sales of any of the mentioned products to the local police or 911 line.

Recently, the deputies approved the bill No.20,961 entitled Law against contamination, counterfeiting and smuggling of alcoholic liquors.

The law will penalize people who commit the crimes of contamination or smuggling spirituous liquors which put at risk the lives of people who drink these types of products.

The project establishes that, as a tool against illicit trade, the Ministry of Finance must develop a system to identify and control the importation and legal production of alcoholic beverages.

The ministry is also required to keep a follow-up report on the importing or manufacturing of alcoholic beverages.

The new law penalizes those who commit the crime of contamination and smuggling of alcoholic beverages, ranging from the temporary closure of the factory to the cancellation of the license to continue with its operations.

Health authorities ask for people to report any suspicion of these liquor brands on sale to the Judicial Investigation Organization confidential line 800-8000-645 or by calling the ministry at 2223-0333 or send complaints by email to denuncias.drpis@misalud.go.cr

Have you seen any of these brands on sale in your community?   We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com

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