Possible Tainted Alcohol in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know

Several days ago, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel released a scathing investigation into alleged reports of tainted alcohol being served to guests at various resorts in the Yucatan area of Mexico.

According to the report, a young woman from Wisconsin drowned in a resort pool in January after only arriving a couple of hours earlier. The story alleges that both the woman and her brother blacked out after taking several shots from the poolside bar.

Once the story was released, many more people came forward with other stories that were similar. After drinking at resorts (sometimes only one or two drinks), they reported to black out, with some also saying that they were robbed or assaulted.

For example:

“Rick and Diana Neuenschwander spent their Fourth of July at Secrets Akumal resort just south of Playa del Carmen a few weeks ago. The Cincinnati couple, both in their mid-50s, were happy to have some quiet time, since both were gearing up for new jobs.

“They put some floaties in the pool and spent the afternoon sipping margaritas. Around 4 p.m. or so, Rick ordered another round. He remembers how he and Diana commented that each of the drinks were different colors. They both tasted each one.

“Four hours later, they woke up in their room and found hotel staff in the room with them. No recollection of how they got there. No idea what went on during that time.”

The suspicion is that bars are serving tainted alcohol as many of the reports of blacking out come after drinking much smaller amounts of alcohol than would otherwise cause those effects.

Meanwhile, according to the Sentinel’s story:

“A 2015 report from Mexico’s Tax Administration Service found that 43% of all the alcohol consumed in the nation is illegal, produced under unregulated circumstances resulting in potentially dangerous concoctions.

“The national health authority in Mexico has seized more than 1.4 million gallons of adulterated alcohol since 2010 — not just from small local establishments, but from hotels and other entertainment areas, according to a 2017 report by the country’s Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks.”

In total, the article identified a half-dozen different resorts where people complained that they were either drugged or served tained alcohol. They stretch from Cozumel to Cancun and many points in between.

If you are traveling to the area for a cruise, we recommend you read the entire article.

Since the story has come out, the U.S. State Department has issued the following warning:

“There have been allegations that consumption of tainted or substandard alcohol has resulted in illness or blacking out. 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.”

In the meantime, here is what you need to know…

What Exactly Is Happening?
Reporting from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says that dozens of guests at major resorts in Mexico have blacked out after drinking limited amounts of alcohol. The suspicion is that tainted alcohol is being served. It’s not yet certain if this is the case, however, it’s a disturbing trend and evidence seems to be mounting that something is going on.

Is This Happening at Every Bar in Mexico?
No. The report focuses only on major resorts in Mexico. That’s not to say that drinking anywhere else is automatically safe. According to a recent report from Mexico’s Tax Administration Service, 43% of all the alcohol consumed in the nation is illegal. The government has also seized 1.4 million gallons of adulterated alcohol since 2010.

Do These Allegations Include All Alcohol?
It appears to most often affect tequila, however, rum, beer, and other drinks have also been mentioned as being possible tainted.

Does This Impact Cruise Passengers?
The reporting focuses only guests at resorts in the area. There is no mention of this happening at local bars and restaurants in ports like Cozumel. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen to cruise passengers.

What Can I Do to Keep Safe?
The safest thing to do is avoid drinking in the area for the time being. If you do want to drink while in port, look to be served from sealed bottles. If none are available, be alert of any odd tastes and take your time with your drink. Many of the reports come from people who say they blacked out after only 1-2 drinks. You can also wait to drink until back on the cruise ship.

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