Counterfeit Vodka Found in Shops Could Cause Blindness

Four London off-licences have been fined for selling counterfeit vodka that could cause blindness.

Twenty bottles of counterfeit vodka, that when drunk could cause such devastating side effect such as blindness, were found in four off-licences during a ‘sweep’ test by Islington Council staff.

Other side effects that may be experienced are blurred vision, breathing difficulties, abdominal pain, dizziness and drowsiness.  Symptoms can be delayed for several hours.

The vodka was branded as Spar’s own brand of Imperial vodka and contained high levels of methanol.

Each of the four off-licences were fined up to £1,000 for ‘intention to sell the vodka’ and ordered to pay a range of other fines as well as court fees which totalled up to £6,000 by the Highbury Corner Magistrate’s Court.

Councillor Terry Stacy, of Islington council, said: "This vodka was not only illegal, it could have seriously harmed people, and the council had to take firm action to protect our residents."

None of the four shops that intended to sell the counterfeit vodka were actually Spar stores and Brighton and Hove City trading standard officials are trying track down where the vodka originated from.

More off-licences will be visited for ‘spot checks’ of the 70cl bottles of the potentially dangerous vodka.

Thankfully no reports of ill health have been associated with the vodka and John Peerless, head of trading standards was quick to point out that “The counterfeit vodka contains potentially harmful levels of methanol. It could have serious health effects, including blindness, if consumed in large quantities.

Nail Varnish Smell

Buyers are being urged to double check purchased Imperial Vodka bottles for tell tale signs of a smell that is not unlike nail varnish and the counterfeit bottles have a smudged inkjet code reading that looks like 10223404/08/02.  Further blurring can be found around on the text on the back label of the bottle.

Legitimate bottles used in the genuine process are Rockware glass bottles notated by the following:  700ml66mm followed by 2 symbols and then the numbers 8809.

There is no lot code present on the neck of the counterfeit bottle samples, whereas lot codes are present on all legitimate stock.

Bottles Seized

The fake bottles of Spar branding vodka have been sold in various non-Spar shops for some time now and last August 180 bottles of the counterfeit alcohol was seized after the arrest of a van driver in Newcastle.

Food standards staff will be liaising with various council’s around the UK in an attempt to stop any further bottles of the potentially dangerous vodka from appearing on anymore shelves.

Although marked Spar Imperial Vodka, the fake drink is sold only in non-Spar outlets. All the bottles sold in Spar stores are authentic, it is stressed.