Thanks to the recent investigative efforts of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the public has again been reminded of the potential risks of drinking alcohol in a foreign country. In this case, specifically, the danger of inadvertently consuming bootleg liquor in Mexico.
After chronicling the tragic case of a young woman and her brother inexplicably found floating unconscious in a pool at a luxury resort, other people began writing to the publication sharing similar stories. These unfortunate vacationers reported getting sick and blacking out, despite consuming low amounts of alcohol (often just two drinks). After being taken suddenly ill, people also reported being victims of crimes such as robbery and sexual assault, and subsequently held financially hostage when they tried to obtain medical care.
Experts have said such accounts suggest the possibility that these individuals were drugged. Bootleg liquor could also have played a role. Mexico has significant problems with adulterated alcohol – a 2017 report indicated that 36% of alcohol consumed in the country is illegal, although this is down from 43% in 2015. Counterfeiters often refill empty authentic bottles with cheaper but more dangerous adulterated substitutes, driven by the high taxes on spirits in Mexico and the expense of production.
Closer to home, the TABC also has a vested interest in the issue, given that bootleg liquor sometimes crosses the border. More than 1,000 containers of illegal alcohol have been confiscated by the TABC so far this year.
In response to the investigation and the outpouring of stories, the U.S. State Department has updated its warnings regarding Mexico to include mention of tainted alcohol. Mexico’s health commission has also promised to introduce new measures to tackle the problem.
So while the TABC definitely has its flaws, let’s all take a minute to thank the agency for being our first line of defense against bad booze. And abroad or at home, remember to drink responsibly!