New Year's Eve party goers have been warned to watch out for counterfeit alcohol laced with chemicals, which can cause serious illness and even death. The Local Government Association (LGA) says that thousands of litres of fake booze have been confiscated nationwide.
Tests carried out upon on one seized batch of illicit vodka found dangerous quantities of cleaning products and paint solvent. Drinking the vodka could have caused vomiting, permanent blindness and liver problems.
The LGA says to be on the lookout for unfamiliar brand names with badly applied labels which contain spelling mistakes. Another warning sign is unusually low prices that seem too good to be true.
Simon Blackburn, the chairman of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, said: "New Year's Eve is the biggest drinking night of the year but people need to avoid suspiciously cheap, fake alcohol at all costs because it could seriously harm your health, and even kill you.
"Counterfeit alcohol also harms legitimate traders and threatens livelihoods, with the black market trade helping to fund organised criminal gangs. Rogue sellers should think twice about stocking these dangerous drinks as we will always seek to prosecute irresponsible traders."
The LGA urges anyone who believes they may have consumed fake alcohol to seek medical advice and report the incident to their local environmental health officer. Mr Blackburn's warning appears to be becoming an annual event. He made a similar announcement last year and also in 2014.
Nevertheless, the authorities have been active recently in seizing counterfeit alcohol. In Cheshire, a taxi driver was prosecuted after being caught with 26 litres of fake vodka unfit for human consumption and 108 bottles of illicit wine. The alcohol was discovered in his vehicle and also in a storage unit.
Trading standards officers in Crewe confiscated 800 bottles of vodka suspected to be counterfeit. In Staffordshire, fake bottles of Glen's Vodka were taken off the shelves at an off-licence. And in Lincolnshire officers confiscated 3,570 litres of counterfeit beers, wines and spirits – most of which were fake – from 20 premises, following an investigation by police, trading standards offices and HM Revenue & Customs.