FAKE vodka seized from stores in Boston has been forensically examined and deemed ‘usafe’ for human consumption.
Last month, raids were carried out at eight town centre premises by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in partnership with police and Trading Standards officers.
Goods were seized from six international stores, including 88 litres of alcohol and 1,520 cigarettes.
Forensic testing of counterfeit alcohol has now been carried out and vodka seized was found to contain Isopropyl alcohol, which is widely-used as a solvent and cleaning fluid – and unsafe for human consumption.
Stuart Crookshank, assistant director for HMRC, said: “The public will be horrified and alarmed at these findings. They have been duped into buying what they believed were legitimate goods.
“We have active and effective teams of officers operating across Lincolnshire to disrupt this illicit trade which has a devastating impact on honest retailers who have to compete against the black market. The gangs behind this form of criminality reap huge profits which are ploughed straight back into the criminal underworld, feeding activities like drug dealing and fraud.”
The level of alcohol in the vodka was measured at 35.4 per cent by volume and not the legal requirement of 37.5 per cent. This is in contravention of the Food Labeling Regulations 1996 and the Spirit Drinks Regulations 2008.
Gary Seymour, assistant head of Lincolnshire Trading Standards, said: “These counterfeit spirits are not produced in proper food production premises to food production standards. The hygiene is often appalling and the lack of quality control can mean that levels of contaminants, such as Isopropyl, can vary across a production run.
“These can be harmful to those who might buy and consume one bottle and be fine, then buy a second contaminated at a dangerous level.”
He added: “We’re looking to prosecute a number of the businesses under Food Safety Legislation and the Trade Marks Act.”
Symptoms of Isopropyl alcohol poisoning include flushing, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and coma.
Sgt Jock Watt, county licensing group Lincolnshire Police, said: “The residents of Boston can be assured we will target those people and premises looking to ‘rip them off’ by supplying them with counterfeit goods.”
l To report counterfeit goods crime call the Customs Hotline on 0800 59 5000.