Drinking adulterated alcoholic beverages killed 189 people between May 1 and June 10, with 14 deaths reported this week in the state of Guerrero alone.
Deaths have occurred in eight states across the nation as people, often seeking to circumvent dry laws imposed by the coronavirus, were poisoned by bootleg or counterfeit alcohol.
On Wednesday, authorities conducted a search warrant at a clandestine whiskey factory near Ahuehuetzingo, Morelos, seized 7,000 bottles of illicit alcohol and packaging supplies and arrested four people. The arrests come after at least 20 people have died in that state in recent months.
In Puebla, 76 people have died since May 10 after drinking tainted alcohol, local authorities reported yesterday, and three people have been arrested for making and distributing illegal alcohol.
Many of those who died or were sickened in Puebla were drinking refino, an agave distillate similar to mezcal. It costs 15 pesos a liter or 5 pesos a glass and may have been tainted with excessive levels of methanol.
Typically used in solvents and antifreeze, methanol can metabolize to formaldehyde and formic acid in the liver and become toxic within a few hours of being ingested.
Symptoms included dizziness, blurred vision or blindness, difficulty breathing, seizures and severe abdominal pain.
Retailers around the country say the sales of legal alcohol dropped up to 50% in April and May, and Iñaki Landaburu, president of the National Association of Wholesale Grocers, said restricted hours for the purchase of alcohol and the shortage of beer may have driven some consumers to seek illegal alternatives, which make up about 15% of the total alcohol market in Mexico, according to Euromonitor International.