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How to identify a bottle of adulterated alcohol?

During these December’s holidays It is common to celebrate with friends and family, and surely in your meetings you will not miss the ‘little bottle’ to toast and share. However, it is also common to find in the market bottles of adulterated alcohol, and ingesting it is very dangerous to health.

Well, for starters … What is adulterated alcohol?

It is called adulterated alcohol or pirate alcohol to one that is made with some chemical components (the most common is methanol, a kind of alcohol that is used to make products such as antifreeze, solvents and fuels, to name a few) that can be harmful to health.

It is important to highlight the fact that the manufacture of this type of beverages they lack any sanitary regulationTherefore, during its preparation, it is likely to be combined with more substances of doubtful origin.

And we must not forget that distribution is mainly done through small liquor stores, bars, street stalls where they sell alcoholic beverages or through the internet with individuals.

What are the health effects of consuming adulterated alcohol?

As mentioned above, the consumption of pirated alcoholic beverages or adulterated beverages is considered a serious health problem Due to the high toxicity and mortality associated with them (which can reach up to 50 percent of cases).

The National Commission against Addictions (CONADIC) reported through a document published on May 29, 2020 that “methanol (one of the main components of adulterated alcohol) is metabolized in the liver by the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase and aldehyde dehydrogenase, producing formaldehyde and formic acid.”

“High concentrations of formic acid modify the pH balance in the blood causing a excess acidity (metabolic acidosis) that consequently causes a general deterioration in people’s health status ”, the document continues.

He also adds that “the consumption of adulterated alcohol can cause symptom such as: headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, severe optic nerve damage (blindness or loss of vision), liver damage, cirrhosis and it can even lead to premature death ”.

Recommendations to identify adulterated alcohol

An article published in the UNAM Gazette on August 21, 2018 appointment to the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS), which offers some tips for identifying a tainted drink. These are:

  • Buy alcoholic beverages in establishments that issue a note or invoice.
  • Review the label (correctly placed on the container) and the commercial information of the drink in question (denomination or name, manufacturer’s details, country of origin, percentage of alcohol, net content, seal of the certifying body, etc.).
  • Check the container of the drink, which must correspond to the brand and type of drink that is included on the label.
  • Verify that the lid of the container is completely closed and that the contents of the container are not leaking.
  • When they are mass-produced beverages, check that they have the government seal of quality properly affixed.
  • If you have previously consumed a specific drink, taste it to look for variations in its flavor.
  • In the case of acquiring alcoholic beverages in bars and nightclubs, the drink must be opened in the presence of the consumer (who must have previously checked the container and its security elements).
  • If the price at which the alcoholic beverage is offered differs by a considerable amount from other establishments, care must be taken and its provenance thoroughly verified.

Recommendations for consuming alcohol during the Christmas season

The Health Secretary, through the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) issued on December 24, 2017 a publication in which it breaks down a series of recommendations for alcohol consumption.

  • The purchases you make of bottles of alcoholic beverages, do them in the formal sector. In this way you will avoid risking your health by consuming adulterated beverages.
  • Before buying bottles of alcohol, make sure they have all the seals and labels and that they are not broken or altered.
  • Destroy the empty bottles, as the main asset of black market counterfeiting is recovering the bottles. By doing so, we will succeed in ending the informal business of selling adulterated alcohol.
  • If you own a restaurant or bar, you will have to supervise that your employees destroy the bottles. With this, it would be possible to end the Modus Operandi of some workers in these types of businesses who, in collusion with the illegal trade, provide them with the bottles and these are returned with adulterated alcohol.
  • If you are in any of these establishments, before consuming the bottle, check that it is sealed, has labels and if you detect any unusual flavor, do not continue consuming that drink.
  • Remember that it is not allowed, according to the Official Mexican Standard, to distill in any address that does not have a sanitary permit to carry out this process. Avoid consuming artisan beverages, since a distillation not carried out in accordance with the Standard, can cause chronic damage to the kidney and liver system. A bad distillation puts your life at risk.
  • One way to take care of young people is by talking about the risks of consuming alcohol in excess and buying intoxicating drinks in the informal trade.


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