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Tainted Alcohol in Mexico, am I safe?

Recently, there has been increased attention in the media of claims of tainted alcohol at resorts in restaurants in Mexico. I’d like to address this issue and hopefully give you some insight, advice and reassurance about your upcoming vacation plans. Let me start by saying, that I do not work for any state or government agency. I am however, a professional travel adviser and co-owner of a successful travel company, The Travel Junkie, located in the heart of the country in Wichita, KS. We are a multi-million dollar agency and on average, my wife, Becca and I take 12-15 trips annually. Mexico makes it in at least once, usually more, into the schedule. We love Mexico and based on our extensive experience in the country and at multiple resort chains over the last 10 years, coupled with feedback from thousands of clients, I feel my opinion on the subject is worth sharing.

The U.S. State department did issue a warning this week following an investigation from a Milwaukee paper after a local family reported that their two children felt they had been drugged. Tragically, the daughter fell unconscious while in the pool and ultimately died from drowning. From my research on the situation, these two kids had a very severe reaction when drinking before meeting up with their parents for dinner later that evening. We truly feel for this family.

It compounds the grief to not know why or what exactly happened. While I hope this family finds their answers, accidents do happen. I'd imagine what most people want to know is "Could it happen to me?". My response is that it is, highly unlikely.

First, it is important to remember that the US State Department issued a warning of allegations of tainted alcohol. That does not mean that from these reports all these people received tainted alcohol. What it means is that these people all had a severe reaction to something and in many cases blacked out and lost time. The incidents have not been investigated to the point to say that tainted alcohol was the culprit. But for the sake of this conversation we'll assume all of the reported cases are alcohol related. I will be blunt when I say tainted alcohol is a real thing. Some statistics show as much as 43 percent of all the alcohol consumed in Mexico is illegal and produced under unregulated circumstances. While that seems like a shocking number, please keep in mind that the Riviera Maya is just part of a very large country. Illegal alcohol production is a frequent practice in the country. In the Southern US, moonshining is still a thriving culture. So in this example, moonshining in Alabama shouldn't impact your travel to San Francisco. The region of Mexico where most resorts are located enforce strict regulations to ensure safety. The resorts adhere to those standards.

According to Mexico's tourism secretary, Marisol Venegas, said the nation has not received any complaint or criminal case on the subject. She said the region receives 11 million tourists a year at more than 98,000 hotel rooms, and adheres to strict quality measures.

Most large chain resorts have additional handling protocols and only serve name brand alcohol, in sealed bottled and they are visually inspected upon arrival. Once this story broke, other similar stories and claims have surfaced. An somewhere close to 36-40 people have made claims spanning over the last few years. That sounds like a lot of people with similar stories, but when you consider that The Riviera Maya and Cancun host 11 million visitor annually, it literally becomes a one and a million chance. In addition to that, it is possible that untainted alcohol paired with sun exposure, changes in elevation, blood pressure or other circumstances specific to a traveler's health could cause someone to pass out. In the end, my advice on the subject is the same for most trips at home or abroad. Use situational awareness. Pay attention to your surroundings and be where you are supposed to be. Do not take drinks from someone who is not your resort staff, even if they are your new BFF you met at the swim up bar. If you have concerns, use a buddy system. I have only had great experiences in Mexico. I have never felt sick, or threatened. Our clients love Mexico. The quality of resorts we book for our clients leaves me with little concern for an issue like this. We treat our clients like we treat our family. I don't mean that in a cliche way. What I mean is we look objectively at a situation like this and decide how it would impact us personally as travelers. Does it cause us alarm? Then, would we send our family? Would I send my mom to Mexico? If I can answer that I would, then I would send a friend. No place in this world is 100% safe, but the Riviera Maya and Cancun provide an excellent vacation experience for millions of travelers each year.

Trip protection is always a great idea. If you are still unsure, you can always drink beer.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, have additional questions or would like to discuss your travel plans, please reach out to us.

Jay Dill

The Travel Junkie, LLC


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