Counterfeit Alcohol & Cheap Travel. Buy Now, Pay Later?:
Whenever we go on vacation, we have expectations that things will go well.
Because of that, it’s easy to be a little bit too eager to cut-loose,
And not easy enough to be watchful.
Unfortunately, some American tourists found this out the hard way earlier in the Dominican Republic.
And if the Overseas Security Advisory Council is right, if you don’t look out, a little fun could take a big toll on your health when you travel…
Travel Is Suicide:
So nobody likes a wet blanket.
Especially when the scheduled time is supposed to be fun or even an outright party,
But a lot of things we take for granted in most of the first-world can turn into real risks elsewhere.
And the short answer for this year’s reports and the OSAC notice is that if you aren’t careful, counterfeit alcohol can be an extremely-serious, even lethal health-risk when travelling abroad.
Read more to find out the details…
Suspicious Deaths In The Dominican Republic:
Since the start of 2018 in the Dominican Republic,
A minimum of 7 American tourists have died under mysterious circumstances.
-All of which appear to trained medical personnel as the result of counterfeit alcohol.
These first started at the Hard Rock Hotel in May and have expanded to more cases since then.
The immediate-action of the hotel would imply that the small bottles in the guest-room minibars were the culprits.
Because that’s what they removed following the incidents.
Even after the FBI took samples for testing.
But you don’t have to go to the Dominican Republic to be poisoned.
Even as far back as The Absinthe Craze,
Unscrupulous or careless producers have been putting dangerous substitutes in what was supposed to be standard alcohol.
These can range from the toxic, blinding, and even lethal version of alcohol called Methanol,
Or out in the 3rd world to even more mind-boggling adulterants like Embalming Fluid, or even spare Jet Fuel.
And you thought the guys opening fake accounts to increase Wells Fargo’s business and drinking hand-sanitizer were bad-enough.
Things can get way worse than just a false car-loan.
Anything To Get Blitzed:
As you might expect, the fake & dangerous stuff is done for purposes of a cheap-sale,
Just as it was in Paris back when Toulouse-Lautrec was painting can-can dancers.
And because of that, the safety-standards that keep the first-world running smoothly,
Like No Methanol in alcohol for consumption, even if you have to discard it,
-Are either partially or completely discarded.
In the case of the weirder additives like embalming-fluid or Jet Fuel, drinkers just want the quickest, meanest, cheapest buzz and they don’t care how they get it.
And that’s where the counterfeiters come in.
Steal Little, Steal Big:
Because if you can sell something cheap to non-choosy locals in Mombasa,
Why not do even better and sell that cheap stuff for an enormous mark-up by labeling it as a legit product,
That average people with average booze-money will pay for?
That’s what the authorities suspect happened in the Dominican Republic.
Product that appeared legit, and producer-certified,
But was in-fact wholly or partially fake,
Which is terrible, because making toxic Methanol is close to the same process as the one that makes drinkable Ethanol.
You just have to be more careful.
And this is where OSAC’s real buzz-kill comes in.
Government Agency Safety Tips:
Because their advice runs counter to the behavior of everyone in a party-destination,
Especially in poor-countries like the DR that present some kind of value-proposition,
-At least on the surface.
So here’s their list:
1) Don’t Drink Homemade Booze
2) Don’t Drink Booze Of An Unsure Origin
3) Don’t Buy Alcohol A Less Than 100% Legal Vendor
3) Don’t Overdo It
3a) A really easy way to find out you’ve had Counterfeit Alcohol is the hard way after you’ve gone-after the first few drinks as if you’re trying to get drunk.
3b) Ie: Speed Kills
4) If It Seems Too Good To Be True, It is.
4a) Whether that means Cheap, A Great Deal, or even Free
5) Don’t Compete With, Out-Drink, Or Try To Keep-Up With The Locals
5a) In either What, or How-Much They Drink
6) Beware of Friendly Strangers Who Want To Buy You A Drink, &/Or Eventually To Start Buying Rounds, For Increasingly-Large Groups of People
6a) This is a common-scam in central and Eastern Europe.
7) Don’t Let Your Drink Out Of Your Sight
7a) Date-Rape Drugs are used all over the world to help rob tourists, especially in places like Russia and Brazil
8) Avoid Drinking New, Dark, Salty, or Bizarrely-Flavored Mixed-Drinks
How Can You Recognize Counterfeit Alcohol?:
According to a different source from the UK, there are a few things to look out for:
Taste, Smell, & Appearance:
1) Alcohol that has a sweet, pungent, or chemical taste & odor, sometimes like like the smell of nail varnish
1a) If it’s very high-proof or you can heat it enough first, and your shot will burn
1b) A red flame means there is lead in it
1c) A yellow, orange, or green flame means there is Methanol in it and will blind you
1d) A blue flame means it’s Ethanol and should be safe to drink
1e) For the science geeks: Neogen sells a small methanol-detection-kit that works in 10 minutes
1d) Other companies like SABRE sell Ketamine and GHB testing kits also
1f) Improperly-distilled alcohol will contain several toxic compounds, many of which have odd smells
1g) These can include Formaldehyde, Formic Acid, Acetone, and Chloroform
1h) Any Strange Particles, Colored Particles, or Sediment in the bottle can also be giveaways
Packaging & Other Factors:
2) Any product lacking the appropriate Government Tax stamp or Seal
3) Any product with Incorrect Labeling, spelling, logos, printing-colors, alignment, or materials
3a) Faulty holograms may also be an indicator
3b) If it’s counterfeit alcohol, the likelihood of expense on perfect packaging-forgery may be lower
3c) Famous Brands may be forged more-often
3d) Odd or Unfamiliar brands are also prime-candidates due to obscurity
3e) Price and Brand may Not be a Guarantee of safety due to the attractiveness of greater-profit
3f) Fake Bar Codes
3g) If you have a bar-code scanning app, it may be able to verify for you.
4) Leaking, Unsealed, Improperly-Sealed Caps, or Those that appear to have been Tampered-with in some way, like re-gluing plastic, or swelling around a natural crimp & cut joint in metal
4a) Pay attention. If that seal does not make the exact-same Sound, and Break in the exact same way as it normally would, it may be adulterated or counterfeit
5) As-mentioned before, if the Price Is Really Too Low, it could also be counterfeit
6) Vodka is the most-likely alcohol to be counterfeited
Where Are The Problem-Locations For CA In The World?:
The standard list of countries is exactly what anyone from the first world would think.
Furthermore, according to IARD, more than 25% of all the alcohol sold in the world is counterfeit.
That figure goes even higher for regions like Africa and Latin America,
Where it is more-likely to be around 50% of all alcohol consumed.
Russia and the Eastern-Bloc are in-between at around 38%.
Other countries with recent incidents include:
2) The Czech Republic
3) The Dominican Republic
Go For The Culture, Not The Spirits:
Finally, the OSAC cautions and implies that while it’s good to enjoy your vacation,
When abroad, especially in increasingly 2nd & 3rd-world destinations,
You may be mistakenly exporting your cultural-biases of food & drink safety from the 1st world along with you.
And while certain factors of your trip may appear to be a bargain at first-glance,
The increased-risk you incur by traveling to countries with less effective regulation and policing,
May completely-erase any bargain you may have gotten on things like food, hotel, etc.
So go on your trips for the culture, the scenery, and the food,
Always be wary and really slow-play things like drinking, though you might resist that idea.
Having at least one travel-partner so you can look out for each other may provide emergency-insurance, too.
But the lure of profits from counterfeit alcohol may be too great for some people to resist, and that buzz might end-up costing more than you think.
Photo Credits: “Palm Trees Near Water”, by Chris Talbot
• Sources: SafeProof – Deaths in DR | OSAC – Alcohol Abroad
• More Coverage: DrinkAwareUK | IARD’s Reports Page | I Was Poisoned – Food/Drink Poisonings | SafeProof – Counterfeit Alcohol | Sciencing – Methanol Testing | Tourist Scams – Date Rape Drugs In Rio