Trading Standards bust fake vodka distillery

An illegal distillery that made fake vodka from windscreen wash that would have “posed a real threat to public safety” has been shut down by UK Trading Standards.

NePolice_Motorcyclesarly 2,500 litres of fake wine and spirits were seized across the UK as part of Operation OPSON before Christmas, an ongoing operation that involves more than 50 countries.

As part of this year’s activity in the UK, officers from HMRC and Derbyshire Trading Standards raided a lockup unit in Heanor, Derbyshire, that was found to be bottling counterfeit 70cl bottles of ‘vodka’ laced with Coolex screenwash.

A small amount of the finished product was seized from the lockup which was found to contain high levels of iso-propanol, which when combined with alcohol (IPA) causes “intense drunkenness” and is often used in cleaning chemicals. Even at low levels, consumption of IPA will cause dizziness, low blood pressure, abdominal pain and nausea, according to Professor Tony Hines, director of crisis management at Leatherhead Food Research.

Jointly run by Interpol and Europol, Operation OPSON began in 2011 with the aim of tackling the criminal production and sale of counterfeit “protected food name” products such as Gorgonzola or Champagne. It is now an international project that sees the seizure of hundreds of tonnes of fake and substandard food every year.

The results from enforcement carried out across the UK last year resulted in:-

  • Seizure of more than 1,800 litres of illegal wine
  • Seizure of more than 600 litres of spirits and ‘unidentified’ alcohol
  • Closure of illegal factory making ‘vodka’ from windscreen wash
  • A significant increase in UK activity, from one seizure of spirits in 2013/14 to 12 seizures in 2014/15

Baroness Neville-Rolfe, minister for Intellectual Property, said: “The UK is committed to cracking down on crime that harms proper businesses and can pose a real threat to public safety. Even though we have one of the safest food industries in the world, there are still criminals who want to profit at the expense and safety of others.”

This year’s activity also involved police, customs, national food agencies, regulatory bodies and partners from the private sector, with checks carried out at shops, markets, airports, seaports and private homes. Twelve interventions by members of local authorities in the UK resulted showed that wine was the product most at risk.

The United Kingdom lead for OPSON is the UK Intellectual Property Office, in partnership with the Food Standards Agency.

Type                             

Litres seized

(Source: Department for BIS)

Whisky

21.7

Wine

1,817.0

Vodka

172.1

Not Specified

410.7

Total

2,421.5

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