Mexico’s Tainted Alcohol Problem

With swim-up bars, exotic drinks, and massages and spas, some of Mexico’s all-inclusive resorts sound like heaven on earth to American tourists. But as horror stories of tainted alcohol, drownings, and unexplained injuries emerge, it seems like some of Mexico’s resorts might not be so perfect.

The stories began to gain traction in the United States after the January 2017 death of an American student from Wisconsin. The 20-year old and her brother were staying at a resort with their parents, and had only been at the hotel for a few hours when both siblings were found unconscious at the bottom of the hotel’s pool. The brother was in stable condition, aside from a severe concussion. But the young woman was in a coma, and was pronounced brain-dead upon her return to the United States.

At the time of the incident, her blood alcohol content level was 0.25, well over the legal limit in the United States. That’s the equivalent of seven shots in one hour. But if she only had a few drinks, as her brother claims, how did this happen?

Not An Outlying Incident

It might be easy to blame this specific incident on the hard-partying ways of college students. But this young woman and her brother haven’t been the only victims. Other victims include

  • a man who was sexually assaulted during a massage
  • a man who woke up in his hotel room with a broken hand, as if he had punched someone
  • a woman who was found on the ground three stories below her hotel room, with head trauma and injuries consistent with sexual assault
  • another college-aged student who died on the pool deck after being denied treatment
  • a 60-year-old woman who exhibited confused, paranoid behavior

Although the victims are diverse, their stories have similar elements. In all these incidents, the victims report only having one or two drinks before blacking out.

A Rampant Issue

Based on these accounts, it seems clear that tainted alcohol is the culprit. Earlier this month, Mexican authorities seized 10,000 gallons of illegal alcohol from tourist attractions in Cancun and Playa del Carmen after discovering that an “illicit manufacturer” was supplying the alcohol. They also found resorts serving expired or unlabeled alcohol.  A 2017 report also claims that 36% of all alcohol served to tourists was illegal.

Since these incidents occurred in a foreign county — and because they have little evidence — the victims have a difficult time finding justice or compensation for their injuries, emotional trauma, or lost possessions. For now, as they look at their legal options, many are focused on spreading awareness about the dangers of tainted alcohol at certain Mexican resorts.

Safety Tips for Travelers

These horror stories are an important reminder to always be safe while traveling. These tips, from an article on, as pertinent to traveling anywhere, not just Mexico:

  • Do your research before you travel. Read reviews, talk to other travelers, and try to stick to places with an AAA rating.
  • If someone is preparing a drink for you, watch as they make it. Avoid drinks from taps or pre-mixed bottles.
  • Keep an eye on your drink at all times, and never accept drinks from anyone else
  • If a drink has a strange color or smell, do not drink it. Always trust your instincts.
  • If you begin to feel sick, dizzy, or confused, seek help immediately.
  • Make copies of important documents like your passport, driver’s license, and health insurance cards.
  • Always stay alert

As these incidents in Mexico show, injuries can happen anywhere — even in paradise.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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