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Poisoned cider kills 16 in Russia

At least 16 people have died in western Russia’s Ulyanovsk Oblast and Samara Oblast regions after consuming cider that contained lethal amounts of methanol.

Reuters reported that 30 litre kegs of the product, called ‘Mister Cider’, had been sold on-tap in the regions.

Ulyanovsk Oblast governor Alexei Russkikh shared that intensive care beds had been set up across the region and that, in addition to the 16 people known to have died from consuming the drink, mainly in the Ulyanovsk Oblast city of Dimitrovgrad, a further 19 have been admitted to hospital.

“Doctors are fighting to save the lives of each of them,” said Russkikh.

It is reported by Russian media outlet Gazeta that one person involved in the production of the drink has been detained in Samara Oblast on the charge of causing death through negligence, and the product has been pulled from sale.

The alcohol in alcoholic drinks that are safe for consumption is ethanol (C2H5OH), but ‘Mister Cider’ was discovered to contain methanol (CH3OH).

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, is an industrial alcohol that is used as fuel, an antifreeze, a solvent, and in windscreen washer fluid. In 2018, the latter application of the alcohol was banned in the European Union due to the risks posed by its ingestion.

According to the US’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention, ingesting methanol can cause, among many other symptoms: headaches, gastrointestinal haemorrhaging, kidney failure, hallucinations, partial to total loss of vision, seizures and comas.

In September 2012, 42 people (38 in Czechia, 4 in Poland) died after they unknowingly drank spirits that had been poisoned with methanol.

Russia also has an endemic issue of people consuming homemade moonshine, otherwise known as ‘samogan’ – production surged from the 1980s with Mikhail Gorbachev’s prohibition of alcohol sales and remained high in the decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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