Thirty-seven deaths across Malaysia now linked to tainted alcohol

Representational purposes only via elPadawan Flickr
Representational purposes only via elPadawan Flickr

Health authorities and police are reporting that the number of deaths due to the consumption of tainted alcohol over the last week has risen, with 37 being the latest figure.

National news agency Bernama writes that as of Sunday night, the toxic alcohol pandemic saw 24 cases in Selangor, 10 in Kuala Lumpur, and three in Perak, with 18 still in hospital receiving treatment.

Most of those affected in Selangor state were foreign nationals, with two Malaysians reported dead. Other victims were from Bangladesh (two), Nepal (eight), Myanmar (10), India (one) and another whose nationality is unknown.

Customs officials have started inspecting 149 different alcohol purveyors, seizing 20 bottles of Volcano brand liquor, from premises inspected.

Previously unaffected, Ipoh, the largest city in Perak state, is reporting that three local men between their 30s and 40s passed away over the weekend.

Two cases in Seremban, in Negri Sembilan state are currently awaiting confirmation today from blood toxicology reports.

Last week, local publication The Sun Daily reported that several illegal backyard distilleries had recently cropped up, run by foreigners, and were now producing cheap alcohol, mostly for foreign workers.

One licensed liquor trader that they spoke to stated that he has seen some migrant workers consume 350ml of compounded spirits daily, about half the bottle.

“As most legal liquor are priced above RM15 a bottle, these workers opt for cheaper and illicit ones that are manufactured by unscrupulous people,” said the unnamed trader.

“Some of these illegal distilleries are run by foreigners. The packaging comes with fancy labels. Cheap liquor is usually sold at small sundry shops or stalls frequented by foreigners. Licensed liquor shops rarely sell illicit drinks as they mainly cater to locals.”

Reports that some of the men died after consuming India’s Kingfisher beer could mean that illicit relabeling was also an issue, as the beer’s licensed importer ceased bringing in the lager four years ago.

Actual Kingfisher “is premium beer, and undergoes stringent quality control” says one trader. He believes that it’s likely that the beers were fake.

Last week, we reported a spate of deaths over the holiday long weekend, mostly affecting foreign laborers in the Sungai Buloh area, with tainted liquor being blamed as the cause. Stay safe, read up on how some unscrupulous vendors are shilling relabeled bottles, and learn to spot the difference.

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