The Local Government Association (LGA) has organised a campaign to educate consumers about the danger of drinking counterfeit booze. 2012 saw a rash of raids that resulted in confiscation of fake vodka and other alcoholic beverages in startling amounts. In just one such raid in Manchester late last year the authorities found and seized 25,000 litres of counterfeit vodka.
In some areas of the UK nearly a quarter of all licensed premises have been discovered selling alcohol that is not legitimate. In the case of wine, it is usually a matter of taking labelled empty bottles that contained top-quality wine and filling them with much cheaper tipple. With spirits like vodka, a facsimile is produced in illegal factories using ingredients that are not only inferior but often exceedingly dangerous to the consumer.
Reports from the Trading Standards office and from the International Federation of Spirits Producers say that evidence points to organised gangs, making counterfeit liquor on an industrial scale and shipping it out to pubs and off-licenses. With so much of it on the market, consumers are warned to look sharp before buying and drinking their favourite alcoholic beverage.
There are a few giveaways to look for; Trading Standards says to check whether all bottles of the same product are filled to the same level, and whether the label is crooked, blurred or misspelled. With fake vodka, the smell may remind you of nail polish; that’s acetone, which is not for human consumption.
Methanol is another dangerous ingredient found frequently; that’s industrial alcohol, which can cause dizziness, difficulty in breathing and even blindness.
The government estimates that alcohol fraud costs the UK around £1billion a year in lost revenue, but they also stress the danger to consumers. Revenue and Customs officer Stuart Crookshank points out that even under approved circumstances, alcohol is a toxic substance. When it comes from “. . .some backroom distillery where the conditions are absolutely dreadful . . .” it’s likely to cause much worse than a hangover.