A warning in Mexico after 100 die from drinking tainted alcohol amid coronavirus shortages, bans

A shortage of beer, bans on sales and the state of the economy could be driving people to buy cheap bootleg booze.
Image: MEXICO-HEALTH-VIRUS-BEER
A man looks for a soda in Monterrey, Mexico, on May 5, 2020, during a shortage of beer after breweries countrywide closed production because of the spread of COVID-19 .Julio Cesar Aguilar / AFP - Getty Images

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By Carmen Sesin

A man in Jonacatepec, Mexico, went home with three bottles of aguardiente (a form of grain alcohol) and told his wife that he had bought them through a friend.

Three hours after drinking, the man, whose name was not released by authorities, experienced strong abdominal pain, vomited excessively and yelled for help as he began to lose his eyesight. Although his family tried to help him, he died hours later, the Mexican newspaper Reforma reported Thursday.

His wife said the bottles were unmarked, without seals.

Mexican authorities are investigating the deaths of over 100 people during the past two weeks who were reported to have drunk tainted alcohol.

The Mexican government has taken measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by halting nonessential activity. That has caused brewers such as Heineken and Grupo Modelo to suspend their production, leading to a shortage of beer.

Some local and state governments have banned the sale of alcohol to discourage people from gathering in groups where COVID-19 could spread.

Some officials speculate that the measures may have driven people to the black market to get bootleg alcohol containing dangerous substances, such as methanol.

Others point to the worsening economy, which could be leading people to turn to cheaper bootleg.

Methanol, a poison in the same family as ethanol, can cause chest pain, nausea, hyperventilation, blindness and coma.

Authorities have launched investigations to identify the suppliers and warned Mexicans about consuming alcoholic drinks of unknown origin.

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In the state of Jalisco, the health department is investigating six deaths that stem from adulterated alcohol consumed at a gathering over the weekend, Reforma reported.

Relatives of the victims said they were all drinking at the gathering when they began to feel sick.

Although it's not rare for people in Mexico to become ill after consuming unlawfully produced alcohol, the sudden increase during the lockdown is unusually high.

The deaths reported by states since the start of the month appeared to spike after Mother's Day, according to officials and local media reports.

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Reuters and Associated Press contributed.