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Booze spiked with methanol kills 20 in Costa Rica

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Twenty people have died in recent days in Costa Rica after drinking alcohol spiked with methanol, the health ministry said Saturday.

Health authorities have been on alert since early October, when the first deaths related to the tainted alcohol were reported in the La Carpio area of western San Jose.

There have been a total of 52 suspected cases of poisoning in various regions of the country linked to cane alcohol, known by its local name guaro, the ministry said in a statement.

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Health authorities on Thursday issued a warning for guaro under the Fiesta Blanca brand, suspecting that it was sold adulterated with methanol.

The health ministry and police have inspected 49 sellers to collect guaro samples for laboratory testing.

On Thursday and Friday, police seized more than 14,000 bottles from the Guaro Fiesta Blanca distributor, the statement said.

Deaths from drinking alcohol adulterated with methanol occur occasionally in a range of countries, particularly related to bootleg liquor.

The World Health Organization says high concentrations of methanol can result from improper distilling or when it is added intentionally to fortify the drink.

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