Poison alcohol kills Russian tourists: three things they should have known

Poisonous alcohol has been blamed for the deaths of three Russians on a cruise off the Turkish resort of Bodrum.

The Russians were part of a trip by travel agency managers exploring tourism possibilities in Turkey. In total, 20 Russians and one Turk were poisoned by the drinks. The $50 cruise included 10-12 mixed drinks. While some reported that the alcohol had a strange taste, it appears that didn’t stop them from drinking it.

Initial reports suggest methanol was added to the booze.

This tragedy could have easily been avoided if these travel professionals had followed three simple rules:

1. Be wary of alcohol in Muslim countries. I’m sorry if this offends any legitimate Muslim brewers or vintners out there, but the fact of the matter is that much of the alcohol produced in Muslim nations is substandard, and apparently in this case downright dangerous. A culture that frowns on drinking pushes drinking underground. This lowers standards both for producers and consumers. Also, consumers are less likely to know what’s good and what isn’t. I’ve traveled all around the Muslim world and have seen a lot of dodgy booze.

2. If it tastes strange, don’t swallow. This is standard travel health practice. One of my worst cases of food poisoning happened in India. It was a hot day and I bought a local brand of cola. I took a big slug of it and swallowed, only to wince at an acrid, industrial chemical taste. I spit out what remained in my mouth but it was too late. Within an hour my gut felt like I’d swallowed a dozen razor blades. I learned my lesson: taste first.

3. Don’t overdrink. The cruise included ten to twelve mixed drinks? That’s poison even if the booze is normal. Overdrinking overseas (or even in the wrong bar back home) can make you ill, get you robbed, or worse. Drink sensibly. You’ll enjoy your vacation more.

[Photo courtesy Georges Jansoone]