A number of tourist deaths reported in the Dominican Republic and Mexico have been linked to tainted alcohol this year. So it is no surprise that travelers are becoming increasingly wary of travel to these regions.
Many of the reported deaths have allegedly taken place at resort hotels, with victims consuming alcohol from the minibar in their hotel room or from elsewhere onsite prior to becoming severely ill, leading investigators to believe that alcohol may have played a role in their deaths.
The U.S. State Department has warned travelers to Mexico about “…reports of individuals falling ill or blacking out after consuming unregulated alcohol,” and encouraged tourists to exercise caution, especially when consuming alcohol.
Additionally, the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica issued an official statement on July 23, 2019 addressing the issue of tainted alcohol. They emphasized that 30,000 bottles from six specific brands of alcohol have been confiscated “out of an abundance of caution.” The statement also said that no illnesses or deaths of U.S. citizens have been reported in Costa Rica due to tainted liquor.
However, as many as 19 deaths in Costa Rica have been linked to tainted alcohol in the last two months.
What is Tainted Alcohol?
Tainted alcohol, also known as bootleg or fake alcohol, is alcohol that has been altered to contain dangerous ingredients, such as methanol or antifreeze. These ingredients are toxic and if consumed, even in small amounts, can cause severe illness and death. Although it is not definitively known why the alcohol is being altered, it is thought to be a way of cutting costs for producers and buyers.
Tips for Staying Safe
When it comes to tainted alcohol, the best way to be certain you are safe is to not consume any alcohol at all. However, avoiding alcohol completely can sometimes be challenging while on holiday.
If you can’t avoid alcohol altogether, drinking in moderation is the next best option. Make sure you’re not consuming more alcohol than you normally would at home, and always drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Having something to eat prior to happy hour is always a good idea as well.
Never leave your drink unattended, and if you think a drink looks, smells or tastes off, it probably is. Let that drink go and choose a new one. If you start to feel ill and believe you have consumed tainted alcohol, it is best to seek medical treatment right away.
Additionally, The U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council created a list of “do’s and don’ts” of alcohol abroad:
1. Don’t drink homemade or counterfeit alcohol
2. Don’t overdo it
3. Don’t compete with locals and their brew
4. Don’t fall for the friendly stranger trick
5. Don’t let your drink out of your sight
6. Don’t drink and drive
6. Don’t EVER drink and drive
How Travel Insurance Can Help
With increased caution recommended for travel to certain countries because of tainted alcohol, a travel insurance policy may come in handy for a couple different reasons.
Cancel For Any Reason Coverage
Most travel insurance policies only allow trip cancellation for certain predefined reasons, and feeling unsafe traveling to your destination is unfortunately not a covered reason. Cancel for any reason coverage is an optional add-on for trip insurance policies, and allows you to recoup 50 to 75 percent of prepaid trip costs if you decide to cancel your trip for any reason — including changing your mind. You must purchase this coverage within 15 days of your first initial trip deposit in order to be covered.
It is important to note that many travel insurance policies will not cover you if you are intoxicated at the time the illness or injury occurs. Some policies define intoxication as having “a blood alcohol level that equals or exceeds the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle in the state or jurisdiction where you are located at the time of an incident.” It is best to avoid consuming alcohol or to consume it in moderation to stay protected.For more information on coverage options, visit our trip insurance page.