Travel alert: alcoholic drinks in Mexico may be counterfeit

The US State Department has warned about the presence of possible counterfeit alcohol in Mexico after one death potentially linked to tainted drinks in a resort.

Updating its travel advice for the US' southern neighbour, the department said there had been "allegations" of dodgy alcohol that had "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," the update said.

The warning follows the death of a Wisconsin woman in January and an investigation by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that pointed fingers at the drinks served at all-inclusive Mexican resorts.

Twenty-year-old Abbey Connor had been on holiday with her mother, step father and brother at an all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen. Shortly after arriving at the resort, Abbey and her brother celebrated the completion of their exams with several shots of tequila, as well as what was possibly a Jägerbomb from a group of guys. Both siblings were later found unconscious in the pool and Abbey was later pronounced brain dead.

Her cause of death was listed as accidental drowning but relatives believe the alcohol had been drugged or tainted, although tests were inconclusive. The blood alcohol levels of both siblings were found to be three times over the limit for impairment under Wisconsin law.

The Sentinel article sparked calls from more than three dozen people claiming they had had similar blacking out experiences from drinking alcohol in Mexican resorts. There were also allegations of sexual assault and other injuries after drinking alcohol including tequila, rum and beer.

Most reports of black outs occurred after just one or two drinks.

"Following these reports and in consultation with our posts in Mexico, we updated our Country Specific Information for Mexico to provide updated safety information regarding potentially tainted alcohol," the State Department said in a statement. "The safety and security of US citizens overseas is one of our highest priorities."

In addition, the department said there had also been 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".

According to a 2015 report from Mexico's Tax Administration Service, 43 per cent of alcohol consumed in the country is illegal with unregulated production. Meanwhile, a 2017 report by Mexico's Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks, states that more than 1.4 million gallons of adulterated alcohol had been seized in the country since 2010.

Most adulterated alcohol is tainted with cheaper alternatives to ethanol, such as methanol, which is used in anti-freeze.

A lawyer working on behalf of the Connor family, has visited the resort where the Connor children were found unconscious and noted that the alcoholic drinks served in the pool area were of "bad quality".

In response to the publicity, the company behind the resort, Spain-based Iberostar, released a statement saying the company adheres to regulatory standards and "only purchases sealed bottles [of alcohol] that satisfy all standards required by the designated regulatory authorities".

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