Belgian officials are warning the public to double-check their wine bottles after a 41-year-old woman reportedly died late last year after taking a single sip of wine laced with illegal drugs.
The woman died in mid-December after drinking laced wine from a bottle produced by the wine company Black & Bianco. Belgium-based newspaper The Brussels Times reports that the woman lost consciousness and was rushed to the hospital shortly after drinking the wine. She died five days later.
“We sympathize with the relatives of this woman,” wrote the wine company in a statement.
Belgian police say that they are investigating her death as a criminal case. IFLScience contacted the Belgian Prosecutor’s Office to confirm the details of their investigation but has not received a response at the time of publication.
“According to a witness who was present at the time, the victim took one mouthful and then emptied out the bottle because the wine tasted bad,” a spokesperson for the prosecutor told the publication.
A post-mortem examination reportedly found high levels of MDMA and MDA in the woman’s blood despite any evidence that she had taken drugs. The woman’s sister told Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwsblad that her sister “was 100 percent against drugs.”
The company says that the woman was killed after drinking tainted wine from a single bottle of RED Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (lot code L8 198 with EAN 8718657781082). Normally, the wine cork is surrounded by a black plastic wrapping known as a capsule (left) and is printed with a Black & Bianco label (middle). The tainted bottle of wine had a different colored cork and was not wrapped in a capsule.
“All our wine bottles also have the distinctive black capsule with a logo on the neck,” wrote the company.
In Belgium, the wine is not sold through stores and is only available through an online partner. It is also available at select retailers and restaurants in The Netherlands.
It is believed that the wine may have been used to smuggle illegal drugs into the country. Molly (MDMA) and its sister-drug Sally (MDA) are illegal street drugs categorized as both a stimulant (amphetamine) and psychedelic (phenethylamine). Both can be taken in pill or powder form to affect the dopamine and serotonin neurotransmitters that influence pleasure and produce enhanced feelings of well-being, euphoria, and empathy. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fatal overdoses are rare but can be life-threatening, with severe cases resulting in the loss of consciousness and seizures. High doses can also affect the body’s ability to regulate temperature, resulting in a severe spike in temperature known as hyperthermia that can result in liver, kidney, or heart failure and sometimes death.
Black & Bianco says that it has checked all bottles of the RED Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon as a precautionary measure and that none appear to have any deviation from the standardized packaging. The company advises consumers to check their own bottles by ensuring that the cork is black and wrapped in a capsule with the logo on top. If not, contact authorities.
“Quality is our top priority,” wrote the company. “Always be vigilant about the packaging of your food. When in doubt, always return the product to the store.”