Meth-Laced Soda Found In Mexico, Authorities Issue Travel Alert

By Paul Fuhr 09/25/17

All stores in the Mexicali area have been instructed to immediately remove the popular soft drink from their shelves.

multiple colorful cans of soda

Drug-contaminated soda pop is reportedly to blame for one death and seven illnesses in Mexicali, Mexico. Arizona health officials are working overtime to issue warnings to travelers in Mexico, while local law enforcement is investigating how methamphetamine found its way into several bottles of 7 Up, according to Newsweek.

The disturbing incident has spurred more questions than there are answers, involving everyone from the soda’s manufacturer to the Attorney General’s office. Meanwhile, a press release issued from the medical non-profit Banner Health noted that “medical toxicologists and Emergency Department physicians are on high alert” following the incident.

The statement also detailed all the side effects that meth contamination can trigger, including the “irritation of, or abnormal taste in, the mouth or throat,” a burning sensation in the esophagus, nausea and vomiting, labored breathing, and an irregular heart beat—a laundry list of symptoms that makes the situation as frightening as it is harrowingly real.

Still, Dr. Daniel Brooks put it even more succinctly: “It is important to check that the seal for any food and drink consumed is still intact and show no signs of tampering,” he said in the Banner Health statement. “If you notice any difference in color, taste or smell, throw it out.”

Located just south of the Californian-Mexican border, Mexicali is the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California. With a population topping out at nearly 700,000 residents in a 2010 census, one of its main sources of revenue comes from tourism, what with its wide swath of restaurants, taco stands, bars, and dance clubs.

7 Up’s manufacturer, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, was quick to distance itself from the situation, too. In a statement sent to FOX 10 Phoenix, the Texas-based soft drink company maintained that the 7 Up products sold in the U.S. weren’t facing the same contamination issue. The company, which creates and distributes several dozen soft drinks including A&W Root Beer, Canada Dry, Crush, and Big Red, among others, also noted that it doesn't “market, sell, or distribute [7 Up] in other parts of the world,” since PepsiCo is the international owner and licenser.

Baja California’s own health department noted that the meth was found in 2-liter bottles and that all stores in the Mexicali area had been instructed to immediately remove all 7 Up from their shelves.  

Still, the incident echoes a similar situation from earlier in the year. This past summer, the State Department warned travelers to Mexico about potentially unsafe alcohol after a 20-year-old woman from Wisconsin died after allegedly consuming drinks from a hotel bar.

As reported by CNN, Mexico’s safety and security website was updated in response to the death, noting that “there have been allegations that consumption of tainted or substandard alcohol has resulted in illness or blacking out.” The site also stated that “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.”

Not long after the woman’s death, 10,000 gallons of potentially unsafe and expired alcohol was seized by officials. Banner Health advises that if anyone suspects they have consumed contaminated food or drinks, they should immediately contact the Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222.

“The poison centers’ nurses and pharmacists are available 24/7 for any concerning ingestion or exposure, including unexpected dietary effects,” they said. “If significant symptoms develop, contact Emergency Medical Services via 911 immediately.” 

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Paul Fuhr lives in Columbus, Ohio with his family and two cats, Vesper and Dr. No. He's written for AfterParty MagazineThe Literary Review and The Live Oak Review, among others. He's also the host of "Drop the Needle," a podcast about music and addiction recovery. More at You can also find Paul on Linkedin and Twitter.