Fake booze epidemic sweeping Sheffield

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DRINKERS are being put in danger by a rise in counterfeit alcohol sales across Sheffield.

Potentially deadly substances have been found in cheap booze seized from traders.

Coun Jack Scott with some of the alcohol which has been seized by Trading Standards following a huge rise in counterfeit sales.

Coun Jack Scott with some of the alcohol which has been seized by Trading Standards following a huge rise in counterfeit sales.

So far this financial year, Trading Standards has confiscated 1,465 bottles of fake and smuggled goods from just under 30 premises across the city – and this week alone 33 have been confiscated from one store by officers.

The figures are a massive leap on the same period in 2010 and 2011, during which just 20 seizures took place.

As well as being contaminated with chloroform and industrial contaminates, the alcohol content in some ‘vodka’ bottles has been as high as 57 per cent.

Now, Sheffield Council has issued a warning to residents after a 2 per cent duty rise on wine and spirits.

Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member for the environment, said: “With the economic climate there are a lot more people looking to get things cheaper and it is only a matter of time before there is a major incident. It only takes one wrong batch to come in.

“In other countries there have been deaths and blindness. We’ve been fortunate so far, but it is a problem and it is escalating. We’ve recognised it and we’re doing something about it.

“Feedback from hospitals has told us some people have come in and not responded the way they would expect them to.”

Ian Ashmore, Sheffield Council head of environmental regulation, said: “It’s effectively poison. People don’t know what they are drinking. There are really large numbers of this out there.”

Some production of counterfeit alcohol – mainly spirits and wines – is highly-sophisticated and copies labelling from existing manufacturers, while others, like a haul of vodka professing to be ‘from the heart of Berlin in Russia’ are easier to spot.

Sheffield’s Trading Standards department has planned a huge awareness drive, targeting vulnerable groups such as students and people on low incomes, which will launch in the next few months.

The council also plans to lobby the Government for tougher punishments for offenders. But in the meantime the message is to buy from trusted retailers.

Coun Scott said: “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

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