Don’t get in the Christmas spirit with counterfeit booze

Glen's vodka - one of the brands copied that was among  the counterfeit bottles
Glen's vodka - one of the brands copied that was among the counterfeit bottles

People in Northumberland are being urged to avoid the Christmas spirit this year – after counterfeit vodka was found on sale in the county.

Northumberland County Council’s Public Protection Service is warning residents and shopkeepers to look out for cheap illicit vodka that has been found on sale in shops and pubs.

The ‘vodka’ which was tested was found to contain industrial alcohol, wasn’t in fact vodka and was mis-described as such.

The warning follows the seizure of 36 bottles from a pub in Ashington and previous seizures of over 100 bottles from different shops across the County in recent months.

The bottles, which also included whisky, comprised illicit and counterfeit copies of Glen’s, Activ and Tzar vodka and Highland Commissioner whisky.

Philip Soderquest, head of public protection with Northumberland County Council, said: “This is a widespread problem and Trading Standards officers have found illicit and counterfeit vodka in a number of shops.

“The sellers have bought the bottles from unauthorised sellers and have no paperwork to show who they bought it from. The fact that we are finding industrial chemicals in the samples tested shows that it is not even vodka. We suspect that industrial alcohol is being diluted and then sold as vodka.”

Coun Dave ledger, Policy Board Member for Public Protection said: “We need retailers to protect their customers by refusing to buy in products like this.

“They don’t know what’s in it and are trusting that it is safe to drink. Our message is that people just can’t be sure and shouldn’t buy it.

“Shopkeepers should only buy from reputable suppliers who will provide the necessary paperwork that allows our officers to trace the supply back down the chain.

“We have made some shops put conditions on their licences controlling how they buy in spirits and the records they have to keep but we are considering prosecuting others. We will look at taking licences away from the worst offenders.”

Any shopkeeper or publican who has bought such vodka and still has it in stock can surrender it to Trading Standards. They also want to hear from retailers who have been approached by anyone selling the product and from residents who have concerns about bottles they have bought.

Anyone with any concerns or information should contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.