Contaminated cider kills at least 29 people, sickens dozens in Russia



The death toll from drinking contaminated cider in the western Russian region of Ulyanovsk rose to at least 29, with a further 61 people falling ill, authorities said Tuesday.

The health ministry, quoted by news agencies, said the total number of intoxicated victims had reached 90 with 29 fatalities, up from the previous death toll of 16 with several dozen hurt.

The ministry said four people were “very seriously ill” with another 30 classed as serious in one of the worst such cases the country has known.

In a news release issued on Wednesday, the ministry said the beverage had been branded as “Mr. Cider” and asked residents to report any information about its sale.

Investigators work at a factory where the alcohol-containing drink called
Members of the Russian Investigative Committee investigate a factory where the alcohol-containing drink called “Mister Cider”, which caused poisonings and deaths, was produced, in Samara, Russia, in this picture released June 5, 2023. 

Investigative Committee of Russia for the Samara Region/Handout via REUTERS

“You can put your life at mortal risk” by drinking the cider, the ministry warned.

Victims were hospitalized in clinics across the region after governor Alexei Russkikh said Monday on Telegram that they fell sick after drinking “Mister Cider” produced in the Samara region.

Russkikh added that “law enforcement officers are seizing these products in our region” while Russian authorities opened an investigation.

Russian media reported Monday that the alcohol contained methanol, which is highly toxic.

“We are keeping the situation under control,” Acting Minister of Health of the Ulyanovsk Region Olesya Kolotik-Kameneva said on Tuesday. “Thanks to the well-coordinated work of doctors, a number of patients have a positive trend.”

Such cases are not uncommon in Russia, where cheap alcohol substitutes are a persistent problem, particularly in rural areas with very low standards of living.

In 2021, at least 34 people died from drinking bootleg liquor containing methanol, in two separate incidents.

In 2016 more than 60 people died in the Siberian city of Irkutsk after drinking bath essence containing methanol, a toxic substance used in anti-freeze.

In December, at least 31 people died and 20 others were hospitalized in serious condition after allegedly drinking tainted liquor sold without authorization in India.

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