Costa Rica Coffee Guide

Health Ministry investigates new reports of tainted liquor, methanol poisoning

October 13, 2020

The Costa Rican Health Ministry said Tuesday that it has launched an investigation after three people died of suspected methanol poisoning this week.

Alongside the Judicial Investigation Police (OIJ) and municipal authorities, the Health Ministry conducted an operation in the San José neighborhood of La Carpio to identify locations creating or selling tainted alcohol.

The Health Ministry says it sent 49 samples to the national reference lab at INCIENSA for analysis. Two establishments operating without necessary permits were closed, authorities said.

San José’s San Juan de Dios Hospital and Hospital México first raised the alert regarding suspected methanol poisoning. At least six people, all residents of La Carpio, were hospitalized this week; earlier this month, San Juan de Dios received five patients with similar symptoms.

The news comes 15 months after a series of deaths related to tainted liquor in Costa Rica. In July 2019, at least 20 people died and dozens more were hospitalized with methanol poisoning, leading the Health Ministry to seize tens of thousands of bottles of counterfeit liquor.

While the deaths received international attention, the U.S. Embassy has indicated last year’s events didn’t affect U.S. citizens visiting or residing in Costa Rica.

La Carpio, the apparent epicenter of the current situation, is one of Costa Rica’s poorest neighborhoods.

Symptoms of methanol poisoning include drowsiness, confusion, dizziness and ataxia (lack of muscle coordination), according to the Centers for Disease Control. Seek medical help immediately if you suspect you may have ingested methanol, as even a small amount can be deadly.

Report to authorities if you suspect an establishment of selling adulterated liquor. A criminal complaint can be filed via email at: denuncias.drpis@misalud.go.cr.

People or companies selling adulterated alcoholic beverages are subject to various administrative and criminal penalties.

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