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How to detect fake and counterfeit alcohol

Updated on February 21, 2012
Fake alcohol is becoming a serious issue
Fake alcohol is becoming a serious issue | Source

With this time of year, there comes many celebrations the world over. But even just enjoying a night out or a party can be dangerous at this time of year. I am going to share with you an experience I had earlier today and several other concerning factors that affect parties this time of year and throughout.

In recent weeks there has been news of counterfeit alcohol both in the United Kingdom, Europe and North America. I have been chatting with friends about it online, one of which owns a store in Florida which just took order without meaning to of these illicit beverages.

Although it is not hard to find knock off or counterfeit brands at any time of year this year more than most there seems to be much for of It around.

This morning I was with a friend, helping her getting a hall set up for a New Years party they are all attending tonight. I was helping her husband putting together tonight's drink selection in a home made mini bar when I noticed something odd with several bottles in their collection. There were two brands bought from a local off licence yesterday. Not only were there spelling mistakes on the label of this Russian Vodka. Which looked like the well known product Smirnoff. After opening one I was met which I strong smell which did not match the normal contents.

After calling a local health expect to come and check them over, who has just left taking the bottles with them. My friends and I were told the contents of the bottle were indeed counterfeit. Along with losing money counterfeit alcohol, especially vodka and rum can actually be lethal even in small amounts and here are a few reasons why.

Fake products such as vodka can, and almost all of the time contain chemicals that should not be there in the first place or higher than normal levels of normal standard ingredients. One of the most worrying contents is methanol. This can be very dangerous and it would not surprise me if the bottles taken from my friends contained alarming amounts of it. In high amounts, even found previously in counterfeit products can cause blindness. In Europe there have even been deaths from people drinking too much of a bad product. Although generally drinking high amounts of alcohol can have ill effects. Drinking counterfeit goods can cause serious health issues within minutes of consumption.

Although not all cheap alcohol is fake, there is a general rule when shopping for anything and that is if an offer seems to good to be true it most likely is even in the holiday sales.

If you are worried you may have bought a counterfeit bottle of alcohol, to be exact Vodka as this is the biggest killer at this time of year and there have already been admissions in the local hospital where my friend works. Then there are some simple telltale signs to catch out suspect products.

  • Mistakes on the label, such as no government information, local health and drinking campaigns although this can vary from country to country

  • Spelling mistakes, many of these counterfeit products come from non English speaking countries, even though real retail products from all over the world will have correct spelling.

  • Bottles of the same product look different, small differences such as colour, design and tops.

  • Bottles not filled the same, most counterfeit production is done by hand, whereas mass produced standard alcohol is done by machine to exact level, so if the contents of filled bottles which have not been open vary it can be a sign of a knock off product.

  • Labelling, if the bottles label is not straight or it's position varies noticeably then it is a sure sign that it's a cheap counterfeit product.

  • But the biggest sign that the product is fake and very dangerous to consume is the smell, a rip off vodka will smell of nail varnish.

Should you come across any of the above points while out buying or drinking it would be best to not consume the product. Local laws and enforcement vary for different countries. But should you come across any of these products, keep the bottles or name of the place you either bought the drink or the product from and contact your local health authority. Note, do not call the Police as this is not strictly an emergency.

If you are worried you or one of the people with you may have consumed fake alcohol it is important to get it out of your system quickly, forcing yourself to be sick is a good idea. Further symptoms include. But can also be mistaken, as many of the normal effects match those of a long night out in bars.

  • Hallucinations

  • Temperature raising sharply, sweating and unable to cool down even if cooled outside or with water/ice

  • Vomiting, although this can be good for getting it out of your system.

  • Temporary loss of sight

  • Nose bleed

  • Loss of bladder control

  • Inability to walk, or stand. Although this can be considered a normal effect of excess drinking.

  • But by far the most worrying symptom found in people who have drank counterfeit products which contain harmful chemicals or high levels of standard ones is the mouth becoming dry, along with the person being unable to breath or feel like they can't. Their tongue will be sticking to the top of their mouth also. This is the first signs of a very serious health risk and paramedics should be called.

This is not meant to spoil anyone’s fun at this time of year, just to help you make safe choices while you are out enjoying the festivities this year and next. Especially with this weekends New Years celebrations!

Note: I don't offer this as medical advise, be sure to use your own judgement. This is just a reference after what I have seen over the past few days.


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      zach 3 years ago

      I baught bottle of vodka.glens.the top would not screw off that triggered alarm bells. There is no uk stamp on the bottle, could it be fake? .

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 6 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      OMG, I immediately linked this to Facebook and Twitter. This is terrifying information for a mother of inexperienced drinkers. Thank you so much for sharing this story. If the rest of your work is like this (might suggest a spell check) you will be doing a service to mankind with your rash of hubs.

      That said, I read your profile and my hand slowly moved to cover my mouth. I wanted to cry out. Your loss is so very very overwhelming, I cannot even imagine. I wrap you in a hug of light.