Counterfeit Smirnoff vodka alert in UK

Poisonous vodkaAuthorities around the UK are warning the public to be wary after bottles of counterfeit Smirnoff vodka have been found in shops and bars.

Fake bottles of the premium vodka brand have been found in Somerset, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in recent weeks.

For instance, Somerset Trading Standards have analysed bottles of Smirnoff seized in Weston-super-Mare and found they contain isopropanol, used in antifreeze and some fuels, which can have serious health consequences including blindness and death in large doses.

While isopropanol can mimic the effects of regular alcohol, it will soon cause unwanted side effects including abdominal pain, sickness and dizziness, said the organization, which was first alerted to the problem by Avon and Somerset Police.

Meanwhile, a raid on an illicit factory in Derbyshire found 20,000 empty bottles and filling equipment and hundreds of empty cans of anti-freeze, suggesting widespread distribution of counterfeit bottles in the build-up to the Christmas festivities.

The UK's DrinkAware campaign advises the public to buy alcohol from a reputable supermarket, off licence or shop, avoid products sold at very cheap prices and look out for poor quality labelling as well as 'brands' that are unfamiliar.

If the item is too cheap, it is unlikely to be genuine as alcohol duty and VAT would account for approximately £10 of the total price of the product, said Trading Standards.

It also notes that spirits in bottles 35cl or larger and 30 per cent ABV or higher have to have a duty stamp, and if that is not present it is illegal, and recommends that consumers scan any barcodes that are present to see if it is listed as the correct product. Poorly fitting or opened caps and sediment at the bottom of bottles are also warning signs.

Earlier this year, an illicit factory manufacturing up to 7,000 bottles of fake Smirnoff every day was discovered in London.

In June, a report suggested counterfeit alcohol now accounts for almost three quarters of all Trading Standards investigations, while the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) said 2012 that the illicit trade is costing the UK Treasury £1.2bn a year in lost tax revenues.

Smirnoff's parent Diageo runs a customer care helpline (0845 601455) for UK-based consumers concerned about the taste or packaging of the Diageo bottle or drink they have purchased.

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