Fake or illegally produced alcohol is alcohol that is made in unlicensed distilleries or people’s homes to be sold.
Fake alcohol may be packaged to look like well-known, legally produced brands. This is known as counterfeiting.
Properly produced and certified alcoholic drinks are made with ethanol which is a type of alcohol that’s approved for human consumption. Fake alcoholic drinks can be produced using other, cheaper types of alcohol. Drinking them can leave you blind, in a coma or even worse.
Fake alcohol can contain chemicals used in:
• screen wash
• nail polish remover
How to spot and avoid fake alcohol
Former Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, Jeremy Beadles believes most consumers won’t come across fake alcohol and says, “that it’s important to keep the problem in perspective, vast majority of alcohol in the UK is produced and sold legitimately,”
He also says. “Most pubs, corner shops, off licenses and other retailers are completely legitimate businesses and wouldn’t get involved with it.”
However, it’s important to know how to spot and avoid fake alcohol.
According to the Trading Standards Institute, people need to remember The 4 P’s, Place, Price, Packaging and Product.
Place: Make sure you buy from a reputable supermarket, off licence or shop.
Price: If the price looks too good to be true, it most probably is.
Packaging: Look out for:
Poor quality labelling, including things like spelling mistakes.
UK duty stamp—spirits in bottles 35cl or larger and 30% ABV or higher must have a duty stamp, which indicates that tax has either been paid or is due to be paid on the contents of the bottle. They’re usually incorporated into the label or stuck on the glass. If it’s not there, it’s illegal
Properly sealed caps. If the seal is broken, don’t drink it. Even if it’s not illegal, it could have been tampered with.
Fake bar codes. If you have an app on your mobile that scans bar codes, scan it and see if it’s listed as the correct product.
Product: Look out for fake versions of well-known brands and be wary of unusual brand names you haven’t seen before. Vodka, the most commonly counterfeited spirit, shouldn’t have any white particles or sediment in the bottle. If you see this, the vodka could have been diluted with tap water. If any alcohol tastes or smells bad, don’t drink it. Particularly look out for the smell of nail varnish.
If you suspect someone of supplying or selling fake alcohol, then you should report this through your local Trading Standards office. They will escalate your report to the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) or HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) where necessary.
You should seek medical advice if you think you’ve drunk fake alcohol.