At least 11 people have died and more than 300 hospitalized from drinking a festive coconut wine in the Philippines, authorities said Monday.
The poisonings in Laguna and Quezon, two provinces south of Manila, came from drinking lambanog, a liquor made from coconut sap that can have an alcohol content as high as 40 percent, the BBC said.
It is a particularly popular drink during the holidays and some got sick while drinking bottles donated to Christmas parties, the Department of Health said.
“All had a sad history of lambanog ingestion,” the department said. “Some bought for leisure drinking and birthday party, while others were donated by local officials during their Christmas party.”
Fred Rey, the owner of a lambanog distillery accused of producing the deadly wine, surrendered to authorities on Monday, police told ABS-CBN.
But he wasn’t arrested because his distillery, Rey Lambanog, is legally operated, police chief Capt. Lindley Tibuc told the outlet. Rey has promised to help shoulder the victims’ expenses, Tibuc said.
Blood tests and samples of leftover lambanog would be collected and analyzed Monday, the Department of Health said.
Del Rosario, a doctor, told Agence France-Presse that one of the byproducts of coconut wine fermentation is methanol, which can cause blindness and death. Some manufacturers keep in the methanol, because it means greater volume and more profit, he added.
The country’s Food and Drug Administration has previously warned about the dangerous and prohibited use of methanol as an additive in home brews.
Methanol poisoning from bootleg alcohol is a wider problem across poorer parts of Asia, Dr. Knut Erik Hovda of Oslo University previously told the BBC.
“If you ask people if they’ve seen methanol poisoning, they would say no,” Hovda said.
“If you ask the same person whether he or she has seen someone becoming blind or dying from drinking, they would say of course, this is happening all the time. And that is highly specific for methanol.”