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Drinkers warned of fake alcohol ahead of New Year’s Eve celebrations



New Year’s Eve drinkers are being urged to avoid cheap and dangerous fake alcohol that can cause permanent blindness and even death.

The Local Government Association (LGA) warning follows council seizures of counterfeit vodka from retailers, home-based sellers and also pubs.

Drinkers should be aware that fake vodka will often smell of nail varnish.

Councils are warning sellers of illegal alcohol they face prosecution and losing any relevant licences after a series of recent raids on rogue premises.

They can also face fines of up to £5,000 and be jailed for up to 10 years.

Some of the counterfeit vodka bottles seized by councils across the UK have contained industrial strength levels of alcohol which can lead to vomiting, permanent blindness, kidney or liver problems, and in extreme cases death.

Toxic ingredients often include isopropanol, which is more commonly found in antifreeze, lotions and cosmetics.

The Local Government Association has issued the warning ahead of New Year's Eve
The Local Government Association has issued the warning ahead of New Year’s Eve

Its consumption can lead to dizziness, vomiting, anaesthesia and blindness.

Other substances found in fake bottles of spirits include ethyl acetate, which is normally found in glues, nail polish removers and cigarettes.

The substance can lead to organ damage.

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, is urging shoppers to look out for tell-tale signs that bottles are fake.

These include unfamiliar brand names, crooked labels, spelling mistakes, very low prices which are “too good to be true”, different fill levels in bottles of the same brand, and sediment in the liquid which should not be present.

Alcohol fraud is reported to cost the UK around £1bn a year as rogue sellers undercut legitimate brands.

A couple who sold fake Glen’s and Smirnoff vodka from their pub in Tweedmouth were told to pay £3,712 in fines and costs after they were prosecuted by Northumberland County Council.

Councillor Morris Bright, vice chairman of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board, said: “It’s appalling that rogue traders selling illegal alcohol are willing to play roulette with the health and well-being of their customers by prioritising quick profits above safety.

“We want people to enjoy their New Year’s Eve celebrations, but anyone buying alcohol needs to look out for signs it could be fake because it could leave them seriously ill and, in extreme cases, cost them their life.

“People are advised to only buy alcohol from reputable outlets and be wary of any items being sold at suspiciously cheap prices, as they could be counterfeit.”

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