July 9, 2019 – Manila, Philippines
Throughout the last week of June, social media accounts were citing two cases of methanol poisoning. The social posts that first called attention to the poisoning claimed that two young women who drank Cosmic Carabao Gin, manufactured by a licensed brewery, Juan Brew, was the cause of the poisoning.
Although the social media posts that went viral throughout the week claimed to personally know the women in question, no names were given. A posting on Reddit questioned the claims of previous reports. Most social media posts agree that the two women were poisoned in Quezon City at a bachelorette party although a location was not named.
The facts that are known and confirmed is that two women were hospitalized after drinking Cosmic Carabao Gin together at a party. The Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) became involved after they received notification from the National Kidney and Transplant Institute that one of the women in question was diagnosed as suffering from methanol poisoning. One victim has died while the other remains in a coma. Citing family privacy, the hospital, doctors and FDA did not release the names of the women who are believed to be in their early twenties.
The FDA under the direction of Dr. Eric Domingo, the Officer-in-charge immediately sprung into action to investigate the cases and the named gin. The FDA obtained bottles of the gin for testing while advising against drinking Cosmic Carabao Gin by Juan Brew. The directive against drinking the gin was not issued because of positive tests for methanol but rather because Cosmic Carabao Gin is unregistered and unapproved by the FDA.
Juan Brew is a legal registered alcohol producer, however, their Cosmic Carabao Gin has not been approved by the FDA. Although the registration application was received by the FDA in late May 2019, it did not yet register or approve the sale of the gin. Juan Brew began marketing and distributing the citrus flavored gin ahead of approval by the FDA.
Dr. Domingo told Philippine press outlets that there is no confirmation that the two women were sickened by the gin. He noted that sample bottles are in the possession of the FDA and are currently undergoing expedited testing.
The Doctor also warned that not only Juan Brew is at risk of being fined and having their business license revoked, but that any establishment that sold the unapproved liquor also faces the same consequences.
The Philippine Department of Health (DOH) has also joined in the investigation and both agencies announced that all Cosmic Carabao Gin is under recall. DOH officials confirmed that both victims showed symptoms of methanol poisoning.
Juan Brew issued an official statement on their Facebook page, and all press inquiries have received the same response. “Juan Brew Inc is verifying the reports and information that has come to our attention. We would like to emphasize that our company is dedicated to the highest standard in processing our products and put the health of the consumer above all. For any inquiries from the public and from members of the media, we would gladly address them on our official email official(at)juanbrew(dot)com.”
The ingredients listed for Cosmic Carabao Gin by Juan Brew are, distilled water, neutral spirit (from sugarcane), juniper berries, coriander seeds, dayap lime, angelica plant root, kaffir leaves, green, cardamom pods.
The FDA and DOH along with Philippine doctors and hospitals are to be commended for their quick response in this case. The Philippines is one of the few countries that concentrates efforts into making medical staff aware of the symptoms of methanol poisonings which means that they can quickly administer proper treatment protocols.
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