Filipino craft beer brewers disprove claims over methanol poisoning

July 11, 2019 - 8:21 PM
Carabao gin
A group of local craft beer brewers debunked posts claiming people should not drink locally-made craft beers and spirits over allegations of poisoning. (Artwork by Uela Altar-Badayos)

A community of local craft beer brewers debunked viral posts warning the public against drinking all kinds of locally-made craft beers and spirits.

The posts were going around social media as a disc jockey was reported to be hospitalized for consuming gin—not craft beer—with high methanol content.

The Craft Beer Association of the Philippines said that spirits—which includes gins—and beers are produced under two “totally different” processes and therefore, should not be treated as one entity.

Beers are produced through fermentation or brewing while spirits are produced through distillation, where methanol is involved.

“Methanol production occurs during the distillation process and not during the fermentation or brewing process. These two processes are totally different and should not be interchanged with each other,” the group said in a Facebook post.

“We, the members of the Craft Brewers Association of the Philippines (CBAP), would like to clarify this distinction in response to a sweeping post in the social media that warns the public to ‘Stay away from ALL local craft beer and spirits’… without specifying how beer is involved in this situation, and what instances occurred that would justify the call for a total ban,” it continued.

Craft Beer Association of the Philippines
Full statement of the Craft Beers Association of the Philippines on viral posts warning the public to refrain from drinking “all local craft beer and spirits.” (Facebook/craftbeerphilippines)

The group also stated that the public may send them comments or any type of inquiries about the “processes and safeguards in brewing” should they be concerned or interested in how local beers are produced.

Their clarification came after some social media users, including actress-businesswoman Alma Concepcion, posted a certain message on their accounts that appeared to have been forwarded to them or copied from another user entirely.


The case of Cosmic Carabao Gin 

Jessica Milner, a DJ, was reportedly hospitalized after drinking Cosmic Carabao Gin, a local spirit made by Juan Brew.

It was not known whether she lost her left eyesight—as alleged by the unverified viral posts—or not but her latest public post suggests she’s on her way to recovery.

Reports note that prior to Milner’s supposed admission to the hospital, a Facebook user named Margaux Romero claimed that someone lost her consciousness while another one “passed away” after drinking Cosmic Carabao Gin last June.

Her post appeared to have been removed from the social media platform but a Reddit user alleged that the original message reads as the following:

Margaux Romero: Hi family. One of Camille’s close friends was confined and unconscious in the past few days… they found out that it was because of methanol poisoning from a local gin that turns out hasn’t been approved by the fda. Unfortunately, someone else from their group who had that gin passed away today.”

[6/27, 1:27 PM] Margaux Romero: Just sending so you can avoid that drink. The gin is called Cosmic Carabao.

Similar allegations also made rounds on Twitter, where some Filipinos claimed two young women suffered from methanol poisoning due to drinking Cosmic Carabao Gin.

Juan Brew, the company that produces the gin, released a statement on its own Facebook page after Romero’s message went viral.

It said the company “is dedicated to the highest standard” in processing its products and prioritizing the health of its consumers.

By July 3, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Health announced they would investigate the local liquor manufacturer over allegations of death on methanol poisoning.

Last Tuesday, it was eventually revealed that Cosmic Carabao Gin contained high levels of methanol, a widely available chemical found in household products and aircraft fuel.

Non-toxic amounts are also “naturally present in fruit juices,” FDA officer-in-charge Rolando Enrique Domingo said.

“This is also a product of natural fermentation and is found in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Higher concentrations of methanol in alcoholic drinks can happen when methanol is deliberately added to alcoholic drinks,” he added.

The FDA also discovered that the gin’s application for a certificate of product registration has not yet been approved, which means the manufacturer can have its business license revoked.

Juan Brew, for its part, has not yet responded to inquiries about methanol poisoning as of press time.

The list of ingredients it prints on its products includes “distilled water, neutral spirit (from sugarcane), juniper berries, coriander seeds, dayap lime, angelica plant root, kaffir leaves, green, cardamom pods.”

The FDA has already warned the public against drinking the product while local government units and law enforcement agencies were ordered to ban it in stores nationwide. — Artwork by Interaksyon/Uela Altar-Badayos