Crackdown on fake alcohol sales

More than a quarter of shops have been found selling fake alcohol brands and drinks with unpaid duty in a joint investigation by HM Revenue & Customs and trading standards departments in south east England.

Counterfeit products unearthed between June and September last year included bottles of “Champagne” that actually contained cheap sparkling wine, and vodka with high levels of methanol.

Fictional Champagne brands Donmonay and Raymond Vadim were highlighted as particular concerns by Surrey County Council Trading Standards.

The probe found illegal alcohol on sale in 91 of 347 shops surveyed across 19 local authority areas, including Brighton & Hove, Kent, Oxfordshire, Portsmouth, Southampton, Reading, Surrey and Hampshire.

Surrey County Council Trading Standards warned it could be hard to spot counterfeit booze as labels can look like the real thing.

It advised people to be on the lookout for wonky labels, incomplete producer information and too-good-to-be-true prices.

Kay Hammond, Surrey’s cabinet member for community safety, said: “Fake brands of alcohol can contain potentially lethal amounts of methanol because they have not been through the same quality controls as the real thing.

“People may be tempted by the cheap price of fake alcohol, especially during these difficult financial times, but I would urge them not to gamble with their health.” Trading standards officer Steve Ruddy urged shop owners to be on their guard.

He said: “I would ask any shop owners approached by dubious suppliers to report them to Trading Standards immediately and only buy alcohol from known and trusted suppliers.

“We will take action where we can to clamp down on this, to protect local people, but also to protect local businesses and the reputable suppliers who also suffer as a result of this illegal trade.”