FIVE samples of coconut wine, locally known as lambanog, from the town of Rizal in Laguna province tested positive for high levels of methanol, the Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday.

The samples were taken from the same town where almost 500 people fell ill and at least 12 died this week due to lambanog poisoning.

In a statement, the FDA said the five lambanog samples had methanol levels of 11.4% to 18.2%. Methanol is poisonous and a 30 ml ingestion is fatal. Extreme methanol poisoning can lead to blindness, neurologic dysfunction or death.

“Very low levels of methanol may be present in alcoholic beverages provided they are byproducts of natural fermentation,” Health Undersecretary and FDA officer-in-charge Rolado Enrique C. Domingo said. “The high levels found in the samples make them toxic.”

Consumers should buy only FDA-approved products from licensed manufacturers and dealers, he said.

Only 14 lambanog drinks bear the FDA logo in the market, based on a list the FDA released on Monday.

This was not the first time the FDA has warned the public about toxic levels of methanol in alcoholic drinks. In July, FDA recalled Cosmic Carabao gin from the market due to lab findings showing it was positive for high methanol content.

The gin was allegedly linked to the death of a girl, who showed signs of methanol poisoning. — Gillian M. Cortez