Tainted alcohol responsible for 25 deaths in Costa Rica


Central American country of Costa Rica authorities have seized thousands of containers of alcohol and shut down some establishments that serve liquor as the death toll from methanol poisoning has climbed this summer to 25.

According to a statement by the country’s Ministry of Health, 59 people have been hospitalized and 25 of those victims have died of tainted alcohol poisoning since early June.

The victims included 19 men and six women between the ages of 32 and 72. Seven of the deaths occurred in San José, one in Alajuela, two in Heredia, five in Cartago, three in Guanacaste, one in Puntarenas, four in Limón, and two are still under investigation.

The Ministry of Health noted to date, it has closed down 10 different establishments for serving the tainted alcohol. It has confiscated some 55,000 containers of alcohol it found to be laced with methanol.

As USA Today noted, methanol is a colorless and poisonous alcohol found in antifreeze. It reported, sellers often add it to alcohol to add volume to the bottle. The paper also pointed out, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the symptoms of methanol poisoning include drowsiness, confusion, headache, dizziness, and the inability to coordinate muscle movement, nausea, vomiting, mania, coma, seizure as well as heart and respiratory failure.

“The Costa Rica Tourism Institute reaffirms that no tourists have been affected by adulterated alcohol in Costa Rica, and that visitor safety is priority. The local authorities continue to monitor the situation and work to understand and remain transparent about the investigation,” Costa Rica Tourism Board representative Thalia Guest told USA Today.

In July, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement that none of the victims were American. However, it recommended “all persons avoid consuming alcohol from these brands. The Government of Costa Rica is investigating the situation and the Embassy remains in contact [with] Costa Rica authorities regarding the ongoing investigation.”

A similar event is also taking place in the Dominican Republic. Over the summer, several American tourists died of unknown causes, however, their deaths are still under investigation.

But, what is important to note amongst these stories is the fact that nowhere does the State Department say to not travel to Costa Rica or the Dominican. Costa Rica is still listed as a level one travel warning, while the Dominican comes with a level two warning to exercise increased caution due to crime. In both places — or any destination for that matter — it’s key to stay aware of your surroundings. If you experience any sudden symptoms of poisoning or are feeling ill contact emergency services immediately.

In July, the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica urged people traveling to the country to proceed with caution when drinking, especially from the brands that have been connected with poisonings.

“The Embassy strongly recommends all persons avoid consuming alcohol from these brands,” the Embassy said in a statement. “The Government of Costa Rica is investigating the situation and the Embassy remains in contact Costa Rica authorities regarding the ongoing investigation.”