Over 100 Mexicans die of tainted alcohol as beer supply dries up: reports

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - More than 100 people in Mexico have died from drinking adulterated alcohol over the past two weeks, according to a tally by Mexican daily newspaper Reforma on Wednesday, as measures to halt the coronavirus’ spread have crimped beer production.

The potentially fatal bootleg alcohol contains dangerous substances such as methanol in some cases, and is being distributed as brewers such as Heineken and Grupo Modelo have suspended production in line with government directives to halt non-essential activity.

Local authorities have launched investigations to identify the suppliers, and urged citizens not to consume alcoholic drinks of unknown origin.

The fatalities, reported by states including Jalisco, Yucatan, Puebla and Morelos since the start of the month, appeared to spike after Mother’s Day in Mexico on Sunday, according to officials and local media reports.

The toll rose to 20 on Wednesday in the municipality of Chiconcuautla in the central state of Puebla on Wednesday, a day after it declared a health emergency following 17 deaths from consuming tainted beverages. The local government said it had confiscated 200 liters (352 pints) of a local alcohol known as “refino” and was conducting studies to determine its contents.

In Yucatan, where local media reported a wave of deaths from the drinking of adulterated alcohol, the state government in April restricted alcohol sales to prevent domestic violence as more people stay home during the pandemic.

Federal health regulator COFEPRIS said last week it was investigating the sale of adulterated alcohol.

In its earnings call last month, Mexican conglomerate Femsa, which owns the popular Oxxo convenience store chain, said it had about 10 days’ worth of inventory of beer.

Reporting by Julia Love; Editing by Richard Chang