KUALA LUMPUR – Police in Malaysia are investigating a case of alcohol poisoning that killed at least 21 people, with dozens more hospitalized, most of them citizens of Asian nations, officials said on Wednesday (Sept 19).
Cheap, homemade liquor is popular among poor, migrant workers in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has high taxes on alcohol.
A total of 57 cases of methanol poisoning had been reported in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, and its surrounding state of Selangor, Health Minister Dzulkefly Ahmad said.
Methanol, an alcohol compound used in making spurious liquor, is harmless in tiny amounts but lethal in larger concentrations.
Five Malaysians were among those affected, while the rest were foreigners from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal, Dzulkefly added.
Authorities had tested several types of alcoholic drinks to find some samples contained methanol in higher proportions than authorized, he said.
Police are investigating the deaths as culpable homicide, which carries a jail term of up to 10 years, a fine, or both.
In neighboring Indonesia, also a Muslim-majority country, more than 50 people died in April after consuming homemade alcohol tainted with ingredients such as mosquito repellent.