Tainted Alcohol Warning Issued About Mexico

By Britni de la Cretaz 07/28/17

There have been a few dozen reports of people blacking out after allegedly drinking small amounts of alcohol in the country.

a variety of cocktails sitting on a table with a view of the beach

Following the death of an American tourist, the U.S. State Department has updated its website with a warning about drinking alcohol in Mexico.

Abbey Connor, a 20-year-old from Pewaukee, Wisconsin, died in January after being found unresponsive in a resort pool. Her brother also reported blacking out and being injured. The warning on the State Department’s website says there have been “allegations that consumption of tainted or substandard alcohol has resulted in illness or blacking out.”

The website, under Safety and Security, goes on to warn people who choose to drink alcohol in Mexico that “it is important to do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill.”

After the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel conducted an investigation into the death of Connor, the newspaper received more than three-dozen stories that sounded eerily similar, with people reporting that they blacked out after drinking small amounts of alcohol. “Following these reports and in consultation with our Posts in Mexico, we updated our Country Specific Information for Mexico to provide updated safety information regarding potentially tainted alcohol,” a department official said in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The blackouts have been reported at Iberostar’s multiple all-inclusive resorts, as well as other resorts in the region. People have cited waking up in hotel rooms or hospitals, having no idea how they got there, believing they had been sexually assaulted, robbed, or otherwise injured with no recollection of it.

The Journal Sentinel cites a 2015 report from Mexico’s Tax Administration Service that showed that 43% of all the alcohol consumed in the country is illegal, produced in ways that could result in potentially dangerous beverages. However, in a statement, Iberostar said they "only purchase sealed bottles (of alcohol) that satisfy all standards required by the designated regulatory authorities." The hotel chain has also denied any wrongdoing in Connor’s death, assuring the public that it acted swiftly when she was discovered in the pool.

India has also seen deaths related to tainted alcohol. 143 people died in 2011 and nearly 100 more died in 2015. The deaths were related to bootleg liquor often consumed by migrant workers and poor rural residents. The liquor is sometimes laced with insecticide or anti-freeze.

The U.S. State Department is hoping its travel warning will encourage tourists to take safety precautions if they choose to consume alcohol while in Mexico.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.