Charity Warns Of Serious Health Risks From Fake Alcohol

Independent charity Crimestoppers and the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) is today launching a Christmas campaign to warn the public, especially younger people, in Newcastle about the serious danger to health of drinking knock-off alcohol.

Producers of fake products are not just cheating the system – their alcohol can contain a cocktail of dangerously toxic chemicals.

The side effects from illicit or counterfeit alcohol can leave drinkers bed bound for days, suffering black outs, blurred vision and even short-term sight loss.

This year we are focusing on spirits, especially vodka, and urging people to speak up if they have information about sellers, manufacturers, importers and distributors of counterfeit alcohol. The problem is significant, as shown by the HMRC seizing 50 million litres of illicit alcohol in the UK.

Dave Hunter, Head of Operations at the charity Crimestoppers, said: “Fake booze might seem like a good idea especially with many people making the most of festivities in the run up to Christmas. However, knock-off alcohol is no laughing matter. It’s incredibly risky to consume as it’s unregulated and unlicensed so potentially the consumer could ingest a range of dangerous chemicals.

“Newcastle has rightly earned a reputation as a fun-loving City, but partygoers, especially young people who enjoy having a good time, can fall foul and be left seriously ill if they drink counterfeit alcohol.

“If you suspect fake alcohol is being sold in a shop, bar, pub or venue, please let our charity know. You can speak to The Alcohol Fraud Reporting Line on 0800 234 6388 or pass on your information via our anonymous online form at You will always remain 100% Anonymous. We won’t judge or ask any of your personal details. We’ll just listen to what you know, and then pass it onto to the relevant agency.”

How to spot fake vodka

These are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Packaging: spelling mistakes, poor quality labelling
  • Smell: fake vodka often smells like nail varnish
  • Taste: it will taste horrible
  • Sediment: pure vodka should always be clear and not contain sediment

Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said:

“The sale of illicit alcohol puts lives at risk and allows criminals to profit while costing the UK over £1 billion each year according to HMRC. Working with Crimestoppers the Wine and Spirit Trade Association is determined to help Crimestoppers clean up the black market for counterfeit alcohol. Although most alcohol retailers are legitimate we urge the public not to take a risk to save a few quid – and to report anything they suspect is fake alcohol to the Crimestoppers alcohol fraud line.”

If you have any information, please contact The Alcohol Fraud Line 100% anonymously on 0800 234 6388 or through the non-traceable Anonymous Online Form.