LGA Lib Dems: Press Release on Fake Alcohol Products

A template press release on the dangers of fake alcohol products.

ALDC members can download an MS Word version of this release here.

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Drinkers tempted to buy cheap fake booze during New Year celebrations risk blindness and even death, while sellers of illegal alcohol face being stripped of their licence, Trading Standards chiefs are warning.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is alerting revellers to the dangers of counterfeit alcohol following a series of raids on rogue premises and successful prosecutions – including nightclubs – in the run-up to the festive season.

Councils are issuing safety advice to help people avoid harm from dodgy alcohol containing lethal chemicals such as chloroform, which can induce comas, and high levels of methanol – a key ingredient in anti-freeze.

Drinking the bogus booze can lead to vomiting, permanent blindness, kidney or liver problems and, in extreme cases, death.

The warning comes ahead of New Year’s Eve – the biggest drinking night of the year – as partygoers stock up on alcohol at home and attend big celebrations in towns and city centres.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is urging shoppers to look out for telltale signs that bottles are fake. These include unfamiliar brand names, crooked labels, spelling mistakes, and very low prices which are “too good to be true”.

People being served vodka in pubs and clubs should also check the smell – fake vodka will often smell of nail varnish.

Huge quantities of illegal booze have been seized and culprits taken to court following recent raids by Trading Standards.

They include:

  • A nightclub owner in Middlesbrough prosecuted for selling fake vodka.
  • 130,000 litres of counterfeit vodka – worth around £1.7m in unpaid duty – seized from a factory in Cheshire.
  • Bottles of fake vodka containing chloroform impounded at a shop in Essex.
  • A man given a suspended jail sentence after selling bottles of fake vodka, which contained a chemical found in screenwash and anti-freeze, to a licensee in Somerset.

Not only does fake booze pose a severe health risk, alcohol fraud is reported to cost the UK around £1 billion a year. Because they don’t pay tax, fraudsters can undercut legitimate companies.

Councils want to make sure that the dangers of illegal alcohol are at the forefront of both consumers’ and retailers’ minds as they stock up on drink ahead of New Year’s Eve.

They are warning irresponsible traders they face prosecution if they are found stocking fake alcohol – and could be stripped of their licence.
Lib Dem Councillor [NAME], said: “Everyone likes a bargain, especially at this time of year, but drinking cheap, fake alcohol could seriously harm your health, and even kill you, so people should avoid it all costs.

“Trading Standards teams at councils across the country have been cracking down on businesses selling illegal, fake alcohol and we will continue to target rogue outlets.

“Some shopkeepers clearly have questions to answer about how these items arrive on their shelves. They need to think twice about stocking these products as we will always seek to prosecute irresponsible traders.

“Not only does fake alcohol present a significant danger to health, illegal sales undermine local businesses and threaten genuine jobs.

“Anyone suspicious about a supplier or who thinks they may have bought an alcoholic drink which may not be legitimate, should contact their local council as a matter of urgency.”


Notes to editors:

  • Drinking industrial strengths of isopropanol – which is more commonly found in antifreeze, lotions and cosmetics – can lead to dizziness, vomiting, anaesthesia and even blindness, and can 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, and can lead to organ damage. Acetaldehyde, another compound used in large-scale industrial processes and which occurs naturally in alcoholic beverages, is potentially cancerous if found in too high a volume.
  • Trading Standards officers advise shoppers to look out for the four Ps: Place, Price, Packaging and Product. These telltale signs show that bottles are not legitimate and include: unfamiliar brand names, drinks containing sediment, wonky labels, poor quality print, spelling mistakes, bottles on display filled to different levels and the smell – fake vodka often smells of nail varnish.
  • The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS is being introduced on 1 January 2016 by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to tackle alcohol fraud. Anyone selling alcohol to another business may need to register with the scheme.

Case studies:

  • In December a nightclub owner in Middlesbrough and his business partnership were ordered to pay more than £4,000 in fines and costs after the club was caught selling counterfeit vodka.
  • In November the owner of two bars in Consett, Durham was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs after selling fake vodka. Trading Standards seized more than 300 bottles of the counterfeit alcohol which was found to be made from industrial alcohol unfit for human consumption.
  • In September a 43-year-old trader in Stockton, Durham was ordered to pay more than £2,000 in fines and court costs after selling fake vodka. The prosecution followed a customer complaint that a bottle of Glen’s Vodka bought there had an unusual smell and taste.
  • In September a man from Yatton, Somerset, was given a suspended jail sentence after selling vodka containing iso-propanol, a chemical commonly found in screenwash and anti-freeze. The vodka could have caused liver or kidney damage or even resulted in a coma after just a few glasses
  • Trading Standards raided an illegal alcohol factory in Wigan, Cheshire in August and seized 130,000 litres of counterfeit vodka worth around £1.7m in unpaid duty. The vodka could have made the person drinking it blind.
  • Trading Standards in Colchester, Essex, seized bottles of fake vodka believed to contain dangerous chemicals such as chloroform at a shop in August. The bottles were labelled as Russian Empire, a well-known brand that normally retails for around £27. It was on sale for £12.
  • Counterfeit and ‘over-proof’ alcohol with a street value of £30,000 was seized during Notting Hill Carnival in August, including over 260 bottles of spirits and Champagne, over 50 cases of beer and cider, and six large containers of rum punch.
  • ‘Over-proof’ alcohol contains a greater proportion of alcohol than proof spirit, usually containing more than 50 per cent alcohol by volume.
  • In November at least eight people died and 30 people were hospitalised after drinking fake Jack Daniel’s whiskey in Russia. The counterfeit whiskey was reported to have contained 60 per cent highly toxic methyl alcohol, which can cause blindness or death when consumed.

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