Costa Rica issued a national alert warning citizens about tainted alcohol after officials confirmed 19 people died from methanol poisoning.
Fourteen men and five women between the ages of 32 and 72 have died between June 2 and July 20 from methanol poisoning, according to the Ministry of Health. Seven of these deaths were in the San Jose Province, a very populated area in Costa Rica, CBS reported.
The government has confiscated 30,000 bottles of liquor containing methanol under the brands Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Aguardiente Estrella, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka and Moltov Aguardiente. Aguardiente in English translates to “fire water,” The Associated Press reported.
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“The Costa Rican government has tested the bottles. These are local bottles of Aguardiente, a popular, neutral spirit made typically from sugar cane, and it had 30-50% methanol in the bottles, which are perfect replicas and counterfeit bottles,” Kemal Canlar, founder of Safeproof.org, said Monday in an interview with “Fox & Friends.” “This is illegal black market, illicit counterfeiters, they are looking to make a profit by infiltrating the supply chain.”
“Its a lot cheaper, so you buy methanol typically in a 55-gallon drum, it costs pennies per gallon and its toxic,” Canlar adds.
Methanol is used as a pesticide, a solvent and as an alternative fuel source. It’s a watery and colorless alcohol, and when experiencing methanol poisoning, a person can be asymptomatic for up to 72 hours, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Sometimes liquor sellers dilute their products with methanol to increase profit margins and to raise alcohol content, the AP noted.
There have been other recent outbreaks of methanol poisoning in India, Norway, Turkey and the Czech Republic, CBS reported.
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