WVN – The U.S. State Department is alerting travelers to Mexico about possible tainted or counterfeit alcohol that could cause sickness and blacking out.
The department on Wednesday updated its information page specific to Mexico under Safety and Security, cautioning vacationers who choose to drink alcohol to “do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill.”
“The safety and security of U.S. citizens overseas is one of our highest priorities,” a department official said in an email to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The updated warning comes in the wake of a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigation surrounding a Wisconsin woman’s death that raised questions about drinks being served in all-inclusive resorts in Mexico.
Following the initial report, the Journal Sentinel has received accounts from more than three dozen people reporting similar experiences after drinking limited amounts of alcohol at such resorts.
The blackouts have happened to men and women, young and old, to singles and to couples, according to interviews with travelers and family members whose loved ones died or were injured at the resorts, as well as hospital records, ambulance receipts, hotel correspondence and other documents.
Abbey Connor, a 20-year-old from Pewaukee, died in January after being pulled listless from a pool at the Paraiso del Mar, part of a cluster of Iberostar resorts near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. She was brain dead, and a few days later was flown to Florida, where she was taken off life support.
Numerous others told the Journal Sentinel of similar experiences, with several couples reporting blacking out at the same time. A woman from Neenah reported being sexually assaulted, while her husband woke with a broken hand.
Blackout incidents have happened at Iberostar’s property in Cancun and at the company’s cluster of resorts 30 miles to the south in Playa del Carmen. Incidents were also reported at other all-inclusive resorts in the region.
Often the vacationers reported they drank tequila, but in other cases it was rum, beer or another alcohol.
The new State Department travel alert cautions people to drink in moderation, but many told the Journal Sentinel they had only a drink or two before losing consciousness and waking up hours later — with no recollection of how they got back to their rooms or to the hospital, or how they were injured.
An attorney working for the Connor family recently visited the Paraiso del Mar pool area, where the Connors had been swimming, and noted in a report: “They serve alcoholic drinks with alcohol of bad quality and in great amounts, mixing different types of drinks.”
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.
The bootleg liquor could be infused with grain alcohol or dangerous concentrations of methanol, cheaper alternatives to producing ethanol, government reports warn.
In a statement last week, Spain-based Iberostar said the company adheres to strict regulatory standards and noted they “only purchase sealed bottles (of alcohol) that satisfy all standards required by the designated regulatory authorities.”
In addition, a representative for the company said in an email to the Journal Sentinel that resort officials responded appropriately to the discovery of the Conner siblings in the pool.
“From the moment in which the guests were found, IBEROSTAR personnel acted with urgency, following established protocols,” the email stated.
“We reiterate that we are deeply saddened by this incident and that we take this matter very seriously – our heart is with the family and has been from the moment the incident occurred several months ago.”
Travelers also told the Journal Sentinel they faced difficulties getting help in Mexico, from reluctance by police to take reports to hospitals and clinics demanding cash payments — sometimes of amounts that seemed to involve gouging.
The State Department alert noted:
“U.S. citizens have lodged a large number of complaints about unethical business practices, prices, and collection measures against some of the private hospitals in Cancun, the Maya Riviera, and Cabo San Lucas. Travellers should make efforts to obtain complete information on billing, pricing, and proposed medical procedures before agreeing to any medical care in these locations.”
The State Department also said U.S. citizens should contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico.
“The Embassy stands ready to provide appropriate consular services to any U.S. citizens in need.”
Source – USAToday