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Warning over deadly fake vodka on sale in UK for New Year

Image: Nottinghamshire County Council

Image: Nottinghamshire County Council

At a time when millions are stocking up on booze for the party celebrations of New Year this week, the police has issued a warning over potentially fake vodka, found to be on sale in the UK.

In recent weeks a number of police forces have made seizures across the country of fake vodka which contained chemicals such as anti-freeze, bleach and car screen wash. If imbibed these fake vodkas could cause serious problems including blindness and even death.

The warning came after Trading Standards officers seized 166 bottles of counterfeit vodka from three Luton shops. Whilst a factory in Derbyshire was thought to be producing the fake vodka, after police found empty cans of anti-freeze, filling equipment and 20,000 empty bottles.

Meanwhile, in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset police confiscated fake bottles of Smirnoff which later tested positive for a chemical used in anti-freeze. Many of the seized bottles had popular brand labels on them such as Smirnoff, Glens and Kommissar which were fake, and contained errors such as spelling or fake duty paid labels.

UK independent charity Drinkaware’s Chief Medical Advisor Professor Paul Wallace explained what is typically used to replace the alcohol in fake drinks:

“Commonly used substitutes for ethanol include chemicals used in cleaning fluids, nail polish remover and automobile screen wash, as well as methanol and isopropanol which are used in antifreeze and some fuels,”

“These other types of alcohol can produce similar effects to ethanol in terms of making you feel tipsy. But they are also potentially very dangerous.”

The problem with drinking fake alcohol is that the consumer has no idea what is actually in the bottle:

“Drinking illegally produced alcohol should be avoided at all costs,” Dr Wallace said.

“You don’t know what’s in it in terms of the actual chemicals – and you don’t know the strength of what you’re drinking because it’s not been produced to the standards of commercial alcohol.”

In 2011, Kevin Eddishaw, 53, the head of a gang who manufactured thousands of bottles of fake vodka at a farm in Leicestershire, was jailed for seven years. It is believed that Eddishaw manufactured around 165,000 bottles of fake vodka between 2008 and 2009, using methylated spirit, which was then bleached to remove the purple colour, then diluted to the required strength.

Bottles of the fake vodka were seized all across the country in Salford, London and South Wales. When the farm was raided in 2009, enforcement officers found 25,000 litres of methylated spirits, which is enough to make about around 10,000 bottles of vodka.

According to the Food Standards Agency, imbibing methanol can lead to ‘vomiting, dizziness, blindness and breathing difficulties’.

Police warned independent shop owners to be especially vigilant, as three samples taken from raids were shown to contain dangerously-high levels of isopropanol, a chemical used as an industrial solvent, and butanol, which is used in paint remover.

Councillor Aslam Khan, a speaker on public health issues, told Off Licence News: “Drinking these chemicals could cause serious illness or even death in extreme cases.

“Many unsuspecting consumers may think they are buying cheap duty-free alcohol, when they are actually buying fake and dangerous products.”

Source: The Independent

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