Christmas shoppers warned buying fake booze can be fatal

Shoppers trying to save a few pounds at Christmas are being warned to watch out for fake bottles of their favourite tipple, as Trading Standards have uncovered many cases of fake alcohol being sold. These bottles of alcohol have been found to contain harmful chemicals, such as chloroform or industrial alcohol, which can cause temporary blindness, or even be fatal.


Trading Standards in Sheffield have mounted an aggressive campaign against the sale of fake alcohol, and so far have confiscated 2,300 bottles, which is double the amount they found in 2011. Ian Ashmore from Trading Standards said: “It’s not tested. There’s no quality control. These are often criminals that are manufacturing this. They’re not concerned about the consumer’s health. So it can contain virtually anything.” And one victim, who fell foul to drinking fake alcohol was student Alex Kohnert from Sheffield University, who told the BBC: “I was silly enough to buy some stuff from under the counter, which was clearly not a proper manufactured product. I have friends who’ve suffered from temporary blindness, in one case, but also quite bad stomach pains.”

Trading Standards found one shopkeeper in the Richmond area of Sheffield who had 674 bottles of fake vodka under the counter. They were fined £582. But the problem is not only confined to Sheffield, as many other cases are being highlighted across the country. In August, one nightclub drinker lost consciousness after drinking vodka found to be containing chloroform, and in September, HMRC seized 13,000 litres of counterfeit vodka in Scotland. The lorry containing the counterfeit alcohol was intercepted on route to Belfast as it left the ferry at Cairnryan. And in December 2013, it was discovered that the owner of a nightclub in Chelmsford had bought fake vodka from a man with a van outside his club.

Fake alcohol can contain many dangerous ingredients, but one of the most harmful ones is methanol, says Dr Sarah Jarvis from Drinkaware. She told the BBC: “You can lose your eyesight; you can lose your ability to walk like a normal person; you can lose your life.”

Enforcement officer Ken Webb from Trading Standards says that there are ways to spot a fake bottle of booze, and price is one of them, as the VAT and duty on a bottle of genuine vodka is £8.89 alone. He says: “So if you see a bottle on sale for any less than £9.50, I would be inspecting it.”

Whilst Drinkaware advises shoppers to remember the four ‘P’s:

  • Place: Buy in a reputable location.
  • Price: If it is too cheap, be careful.
  • Packaging: Check if the labels are correct, or have been tampered with.
  • Product: If it smells or looks bad, do not drink it.

Source: BBC News

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