Taking a vacation? Here’s how to avoid tainted alcohol anywhere you travel

Right now, a vacation in Costa Rica could sound more nerve-wracking than relaxing: More than 20 people have died since June, and authorities are linking their deaths to tainted alcohol.

As of Aug. 5, 25 people had died out of 59 hospitalized, likely as a result of their consumption of alcohol with toxic levels of methanol, according to Costa Rica’s health ministry.

The situation isn’t unprecedented. This isn’t even the first time this year that contaminated alcohol has been a concern for travelers.

Ten U.S. tourists have died in the Dominican Republicsince March, some reportedly after drinking alcohol from hotel minibars. The deaths resulted in the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism elevating safety regulations and enforcing more regular food and drink inspections. 

And in 2017, 10,000 gallons of contaminated alcohol were confiscated from resorts in Mexico, following an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which is part of the USA TODAY Network.

Tainted alcohol poisoning incidents tend to occur in countries where the taxes on legitimate alcohol or the cost itself, may be seen as too high, Larry Navin, director of government and public affairs at the Methanol Institute, told USA TODAY. 

Alcohol fraud can happen by diluting or refilling bottles of “premium” liquor with substances like methanol or even rubbing alcohol.

The Costa Rican government has confiscated more than 55,000 bottles of alcohol and closed 10 establishments in Alajuela and San José, according to a statement from Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health.

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