Costa Rica: 25 dead from drinking tainted alcohol, 59 affected: What you need to know

Costa Rica’s Health Ministry has revealed 25 people have been killed and 59 have been affected by tainted alcohol in the country.

According to a press release on the agency’s website, 19 men and six women between the ages of 32 and 72 have died since June.

The Ministry of Health said it had closed 10 establishments and seized more than 55,000 containers of alcohol it said were laced with methanol, a colorless, poisonous alcohol found in antifreeze. 

Adding methanol to distilled beverages allows sellers to increase the volume of liquid, as well as its potential potency, according to SafeProof, an organization that lobbies against counterfeit alcohol.

Costa Rica:   Tainted alcohol death toll rises to 25; 59 people affected overall

Here’s what we know about counterfeit alcohol overseas and how you can identify and avoid it.

What is counterfeit alcohol?

What is often used as a catch-all term for unregulated booze is actually a fraudulent imitation of a legitimate product through tampering or refilling it with toxic forms of alcohol such as methanol (wood-distilled) or ethanol (grain-distilled).

Other forms of unregulated alcohol can include: 

Informal: Local artisanal or homebrewed beverages, which may or or may not be regulated

Contraband: Liquor smuggled across the border to avoid taxes and tariffs

Non-conforming: Beverages made by manufacturers who do not adhere to accepted bottling or labeling procedures, including products made with ethyl alcohol, or other solvents that make it unsuitable for human consumption

Tax leakage: Legally produced beverages for which taxes were not paid

Surrogate: Liquids not intended for drinking but consumed anyway; may be legal for non-recreational uses

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