At the end of last week the Costa Rican Ministry of Health confirmed 19 suspected methanol poisoning deaths, recorded between June and July.
Of these cases, 14 are men and five are women, aged between 32 and 72 years. Both the Institute of Costa Rican Tourism and government officials have announced that the offending liquors were bootleg, homemade products and not readily available to the public at large.
According to the Institute of Costa Rican Tourism press release no tourists were affected with this problem.
30,000 bottles seized
The government has since seized around 30,000 bottles that are believed to be counterfeit and produced without quality oversight. These bottles were marked with the labels of “Guaro Gran Apache,” “Red Star Brandy,” “Guaro Montano,” “Aguardiente Barón Rojo,” “Aguardiente Timbuka,” and “Aguardiente Molotov.”
According to the World Health Organization, outbreaks of methanol poisoning are usually linked to “adulterated counterfeit or informally produced spirit drinks”.
Warren Chavarria, Health Director of Santa Cruz (from the Costa Rican province of Guanacaste), talked to Costa Rica Vacations representatives about this issue, saying, “We want to be clear about those tainted bottles. Most of them are very suspiciously cheap priced, only found in informal markets or pulperias (local small grocery stores), and underground liquor stores. In most of the cases the bottles had an unprofessional packaging and unknown names. You will never find these types of bottles in hotels, supermarkets or legal liquor stores. There are no problems with our national liquor or beer companies."
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