Huge amounts of fake and illegal alcohol were seized during a two-day crackdown on shops in Brighton.

Between 31 January and 1 February teams of Sussex Police, Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and Trading Standards officers worked together to inspect 33 shops.

One shop had at least 1.2 tonnes of suspected illegal alcohol, with thousands of counterfeit wine bottles and numerous illegal beer cases in its stockroom.

A van was caught and found to be full of counterfeit wine, beer and vodka, during its distribution to shops.

Other shops contained suspicious bottles of Sambuca, vodka and wine.

Over £72,000 worth of suspected smuggled and fake alcohol was seized.

This included 2,950 bottles of spirits and wine and 2,270 litres of suspected illegal beer overall.

According to one trading standards officer, unlicensed alcohol can be up to 70 percent cheaper to produce.

However, illegal bottles of spirits sold in off-licences in Brighton and Hove have been found to contain dangerous methanol levels.
Cat MacBeth, a trading standards officer, said: “this stuff is not being produced in a clean safe environment. They don’t care about health and safety. They are making these drinks from industrial grade alcohol, which can be very dangerous.”
Simon Nelson, Sussex Police Superintendent, stated that more coordinated raids across Brighton were likely to tackle the “emerging problem” of alcohol smuggling.

Other places in which spot checks occurred include Chichester, Selsey and Midhurst in West Sussex, but no counterfeit alcohol was found on sale.

The issue of counterfeit alcohol is particularly relevant following what happened to Sheffield University student Lauren Platts; her experience from drinking cheap vodka resulted in major vision problems such as blurred images.

She was featured on the BBC programme ‘Inside Out’, which explored the problem.

Illegal alcohol can contain dangerous ingredients at high levels such as bleach, methylated spirits, methanol, isopropanal, harmful cleaning fluids, paint stripper and antifreeze.

Illegal alcohol is smuggled and industrially produced in a dangerous factory process. Its manufacture is linked to criminal gangs.

Students are a particularly vulnerable group, due to the cheap price of the fake alcohol and the relatively high prices of non-illegal alcohol.

According to an Institute of Engineering and Technology study, seizures of fake alcohol have increased by five times in two years, with decreases in other seizures.

Fake wine with spelling errors on the label

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