Minimum alcohol price in UK could lead to surge in fakes

Drunk youthThe Local Government Association (LGA) in the UK has warned that government plans to place a minimum price on alcohol could lead to an increase in counterfeits in the marketplace.

The proposals to introduce a minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol is part of the government's alcohol strategy for England and Wales, which is aimed at cutting down on problem drinking. Similar plans are under consideration in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The LGA is concerned that setting a minimum price may instead see many people turn to cheap alcohol products with a greater risk of being exposed to fakes with potentially toxic chemicals. 

The UK's Trading Standards organisation recently reported that there has been a five-fold increase in seizures of counterfeit alcohol in the UK since 2009. Fakes have been found to contain a range of noxious contaminants, including isopropanol, methanol and chloroform.

"When drinking counterfeit brands you can never be sure what you are putting into your body," said the LGA.

"People who think they are getting a bargain could end up making themselves blind or even drinking themselves to death."

Rather than a minimum price, the LGA wants to see alternate measures such as reduced bureaucracy of the current licensing system to allow councils to act more quickly on residents' concerns about anti-social behaviour related to drinking.

Local authorities should also be given the power to decide how to spend a late night levy on night clubs and bars, and local health experts should be given a say on the opening of new off-licenses selling cheap alcohol, it added.

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