Tainted alcohol suspected at resorts, but tracking cases is difficult

The Iberostar chain is named in a newspaper investigation of tainted alcohol served to guests of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. Photo: Courtesy
The Iberostar chain is named in a newspaper investigation of tainted alcohol served to guests of all-inclusive resorts in Mexico. Photo: Courtesy

Reports of tainted, bootleg liquor served at all-inclusive resorts in Cancun and on the Riviera Maya will not result in a travel warning from the U.S. Consulate.

The consulate, based in Mérida, does not have “sufficient information to make a determination at this time if a pattern exists,” reports KHOU, a Houston television station.

It is impossible to know the scope of the problem, since many of the incidents go un-investigated, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel concludes in an exhaustive report. Their reporting includes numerous anecdotal accounts of suspicious events occurring in all-inclusives.

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Sharing horror stories online on ratings sites such as TripAdvisor is difficult, if not impossible, and currently has favorable reviews overall. Travel sites limit how far a traveler can go in accusing a resort.

“So while readers might learn that a resort’s seafood isn’t fresh and the beds are too hard, they won’t typically hear that guests were assaulted on the property or that they believed a bartender slipped something in their drinks,” writes the Journal Sentinel.

So there is no central clearinghouse for this type of information.

While it is easy to conclude that guests are not taking responsibility for over-indulging in alcohol, many have insisted that they have blacked out after consuming a modest amount of tequila or rum.

In several cases, travelers told the Journal Sentinel that resort staff would not call the police and said the guests should take a cab to the police department if they wanted to file a report.

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The report implicates Iberostar’s property in Cancun and at its cluster of resorts in Playa del Carmen, as well as other all-inclusive resorts in the region, such as Secrets and the Grand Oasis.

The accounts of travelers were backed up by hospital, ambulance and hotel records.

According to the newspaper story and other news reports, some of the vacationers said they only had one or two drinks before they lost consciousness and woke up “with no recollection of how they got back to their rooms or to the hospital, or how they were injured.”

A Houston couple returned from one such trip when the wife “turned into a zombie,” the husband said to a local TV news program. “I’ve never seen her like that. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Earlier, 20-year-old Abbey Conner drowned at Paraiso del Mar just hours after arriving. She and her older brother, Austin, were found face down and unconscious in the pool.


A 2015 report from Mexico’s Tax Administration Service found that 43 percent of all the alcohol consumed in the nation — in and outside resorts — is illegally produced under unregulated circumstances resulting in potentially dangerous concoctions.

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More than 1.4 million gallons of adulterated alcohol has been seized since 2010. Small, local establishments as well as hotels and other entertainment areas were complicit, according to a 2017 report by the country’s Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks.

Bootleg liquor could be infused with grain alcohol or dangerous concentrations of methanol, cheaper alternatives to producing ethanol, government reports warn.

Sources: KHOU, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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