Almost 200 others have been admitted to hospital in the African country following the mass poisoning in the village of Chitima on Friday. The government has declared three days of mourning following the deaths.
Victims had been drinking pombe, a traditional Mozambican beer made from millet or cornflour and brewed for about two days. It is often served at funerals and other ceremonies.
The mourners were attending the funeral of a newborn baby when they drank the poisoned beer. The child’s mother, who brewed the pombe, was among the dead.
People who drank the beer in the morning suffered no ill effects, but those who consumed it in the afternoon quickly became unwell. Officials fear the brew was poisoned with crocodile bile while the victims were at the cemetery.
Paulo Bernando, director for health in Tete province, told Radio Mozambique: “People flocked to the hospital, suffering from diarrhoea and muscle pain. Then bodies from various neighbourhoods were brought to the hospital.”
Some African traditions dictate that when a crocodile killed its gallbladder must be immediately removed and buried in front of witnesses to prevent the greenish-brown bile – which is produced in the liver – being used as a poison.
District health official Alex Albertini told Radio Mozambique that poisoning by crocodile bile was common in the area.
Samples of the beer and blood have now been sent for testing at the national laboratory in the capital, Maputo.