What comes to mind when you daydream about the perfect vacation?
Whether it’s white sandy beaches, lounging poolside, or dining along a shimmering river at sunset, most of us enjoy relaxing with a signature alcoholic-something-or-another.
But now, ordering a piña colada at your cabana could end up being the last thing you ever do.
There are dangers lurking behind every coaster.
Since June of last year, 19 people have died in Costa Rica from drinking alcohol containing “toxic levels of methanol, leading the country’s National Health Ministry to issue a national alert,” according to USA Today.
A shocking 30,000 bottles of alcohol possibly tainted with methanol were confiscated by Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health.
While not all were found to contain methanol, the following brands did test positive: Guaro Montano, Guaro Gran Apache, Aguardiente Estrella, Aguardiente Barón Rojo, Aguardiente Timbuka, and Molotov Aguardiente.
Methanol poisoning is typically linked with “adulterated counterfeit or informally produced spirit drinks,” reports the World Health Organization.
In other words, usually homemade batches of alcohol are causing the problem.
Methanol is a cheap way to make alcoholic beverages stronger, but it’s a toxic form of alcohol.
You may be thinking, “That’s easy. I’ll just go anywhere other than Costa Rica for vacation.”
But it’s not that simple.
Multiple countries have had tourists die from methanol poisoning, so avoiding Costa Rica won’t be enough to keep you safe.
In Mexico, a young woman died at a resort, and in India, 154 people died from methanol tainted alcohol just this year, according to Fast Company.
And Proud American Traveler reported on the mysterious deaths of tourists in the Dominican Republic after consuming alcohol from the mini bar.
The FBI and Dominican authorities are now investigating whether tainted alcohol was the cause of these tragic deaths.
How do you know if you are drinking an alcoholic beverage that is tainted with methanol?
Symptoms of consuming the toxin include dizziness, confusion, drowsiness, headaches, the inability to coordinate muscle movements, and even death.
The Conversation revealed methanol isn’t the only dangerous ingredient lurking in your favorite overseas cocktails – jet fuel and embalming fluid can show up too.
The U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council recommends not drinking any homemade or counterfeit “booze,” consuming too many drinks, or letting your drinks leave your sight.
Use common sense when it comes to alcoholic beverages during your vacation. Don’t order from bars or individuals who don’t represent a known company or brand, throw your drink away if it tastes bad, and check the seals when purchasing any alcohol to make sure they haven’t been previously opened.
So there’s no need to cancel that summer excursion you’ve been planning for a year – just be aware of what to look for and only drink alcohol from reputable companies.
Besides, alcohol isn’t the only highlight of a getaway! Book extra activities or tours to decrease that downtime where you’re encouraged to eat and drink. Your wallet, health, and waistline will thank you!