It seems you don’t need prohibition to inspire the manufacture of lethal cheap ‘fake booze’.
On the eve of the biggest drinking night of the year, New Year’s revellers have been warned to avoid counterfeit vodka containing ‘industrial strength’ levels of alcohol.
The dangerous drink can trigger vomiting, permanent blindness, kidney or liver problems and, in extreme cases, death.
The warning comes after more than 14,000 litres of spirits, wine and beer, worth £24,000, was seized from retailers in the Birmingham area.
Included in the massive haul was an estimated 76 litres of spirits, 1,860 litres of wine and 23,000 cans of beer.
The operation is being carried out by HMRC, involving Trading Standards, aimed at thwarting the sale and supply of illegal alcohol.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is urging shoppers to look out for tell-tale signs of fake bottles.
The signs include, unfamiliar brand names, crooked labels, spelling mistakes, ‘too good to be true’ low prices, different fill levels in bottles of the same brand, and grit in the liquid – which shouldn’t be present.
Councillor Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, told the Evening Times:
We know New Year’s Eve is the biggest social night of the year, but people shouldn’t let their guard down.
Anyone buying alcohol needs to look out for suspiciously cheap, fake alcohol because it could leave them seriously ill and in extreme cases, cost them their life.
Counterfeit alcohol is not only a serious danger to health, it harms legitimate traders and threatens livelihoods, with the black market trade funding organised criminal gangs.
Council trading standards teams have been targeting businesses selling fake alcohol and rogue sellers should think twice about stocking these dangerous drinks, as we’ll always seek to prosecute irresponsible traders.
The items were taken to a specialist recycling centre, converted into electricity and fed into the national grid.
The fake vodka is being passed off and sold as Smirnoff Vodka and Glens Vodka.
Staffordshire County Council seized 16 bottles of illegal vodka earlier this month as part of a crackdown on counterfeit alcohol which has included prosecutions and licence reviews, with the largest fine handed out to a rogue seller, £10,000.
Substances found in illegal alcohol often include industrial strength isopropanol, often found in antifreeze, lotions, and cosmetics.
When ingested, this can lead to dizziness, vomiting, anaesthesia and blindness – in some cases, it can even leave someone in a coma.
Other substances found in fake bottles of spirits include ethyl acetate, which is normally found in glues, nail polish removers and cigarettes – it can lead to organ damage.
Acetaldehyde, another compound found in some counterfeit liquor, is potentially cancerous if found in too high a volume
Apparently the smell is a big give away – fake vodka will smell like nail varnish or other strong chemicals.
The fake alcohol not only poses a severe health risk to anyone who consumes it, but the fraud is thought to cost the UK around £1 billion each year.
Retailers selling illegal alcohol could lose their license, be fined up to £5,000 and be jailed for up to ten years.