UK issued fake Smirnoff warning3rd January, 2013 by Becky Paskin
British consumers have been advised to look out for the telltale signs of counterfeit vodka, after warnings that bottles of fake Smirnoff are currently circulating in the country.
The warning came just before the New Year, when many consumers may have been looking to stock up on cheap, counterfeit alcohol for festive celebrations.
However fake spirits, which can contain dangerously high levels of methanol – a substance found in anti-freeze – can cause blindness and death if drunk.
According to Essex County Council, bottles of counterfeit spirits labelled as Smirnoff – the vodka brand owned by Diageo – are circulating throughout the country.
While the council is advising businesses to stick to buying stock from reputable wholesalers rather than the ‘man in a van’, the Local Government Association (LGA) has issued a list of telltale signs of counterfeit spirits to watch out for.
Unfamiliar brand names
Drinks containing sediment
Poor quality print
Bottles on display filled to different levels
Cllr Paul Bettison, regulation spokesperson for the LGA, said: “Everyone wants a bargain at this time of year, but by consuming fake alcohol people may be taking their life into their hands. These drinks are often made by organised gangs and may contain all sorts of toxic and dangerous substances.
“Usually, if an offer seems too good to be true then it probably is. Anyone suspicious about a supplier or who thinks they may have bought a bottle of alcohol which may not be legitimate should contact their local council or Consumer Direct as a matter of urgency.”
The warning also comes after a man from Worthing, West Sussex, died after drinking a fake bottle of Polish vodka that contained 40% methanol. Meanwhile, Staffordshire County Council reported to have seized around 1,800 bottles of fake alcohol during 2012, with 21 traders prosecuted.
A study conducted last year estimated that counterfeit spirits is costing the UK Treasury £1.2bn a year in lost revenue,losing more money to the “cross border movement of alcohol than any other EU state”.
The circulation of fake alcohol in the UK is a stark warning to the spirits industry that counterfeiting is not a problem restricted to emerging markets like China and Eastern Europe. Last year around 40 people died as a result of drinking methanol-laced vodka in the Czech Republic, resulting in a partial prohibition.