Trading Standards experts are this week warning consumers of the dangers of buying counterfeit alcohol on the lead up to Christmas.
Illicit, or illegal alcohol, is either fake booze that has been produced in counterfeit bottles and has been labelled as a genuine product, or is genuine branded alcohol that has been stolen in bulk and sold on - avoiding paying any tax or duty.
These products can contain industrial alcohol and ingredients used to make antifreeze and nail polish remover.
Over 400 bottles of the stuff have been seized in Doncaster in the last few months alone, and action has been taken against several premises found selling it. The strength of these products can vary greatly between batches, so the risk of drinking it can be very high.
Coun Joe Blackham, Cabinet Member for Enforcement and Trading Services said: “We know that everyone likes a bargain, especially in the run up to Christmas, and unfortunately this illegal alcohol can be dangerously low in price,”
“The counterfeit booze bottles are so convincing that it is often hard to tell them apart from the real thing. However, there are several key signs that are easy to look for once people know the ‘tricks of the trade.”
If consumed, this industrial alcohol can cause severe illness, vomiting, nausea, coma and in some cases blindness.
“We want to educate people about how to spot this dodgy booze,” added Coun Blackham
“We are giving out detailed information across the Borough over the next couple of weeks, and empowering consumers to make the right choice when buying their alcohol.”
Counterfeit bottles are increasingly clever, but a few telltale signs include badly applied labels, fake tax stamps, misspelt labels, unfamiliar brand names and worryingly cheap prices, although the price is not always a key indicator.
“We need consumers to feel confident to question and challenge premises who are breaking the law by selling this toxic booze,” Cllr Blackham commented.
At the same time, Trading Standards Officers are visiting alcohol selling retailers across Doncaster over the coming weeks, to ensure that the illegal stuff is not on their shelves, as part of the ‘Fight the Fakes’ crackdown.
“We want to stamp out this trade for good. We will not tolerate retailers targeting our residents by trying to lure them in with cheap counterfeit alcohol. Be warned - we know what to look for and there is nowhere to hide.”
Earlier this year, retailers selling alcohol in Doncaster received an information leaflet letting them know how to spot counterfeit products, and warning them of the dangers of selling it. The penalties for retailers caught include a fine of up to £5,000, a criminal record and the permanent loss of their alcohol licence.
Anyone with information about who may be producing or selling these illegal goods should contact Doncaster Trading Standards Service in confidence on 08454 04 05 06 or visit the website at www.doncaster.gov.uk/fakes