How To Spot Fake Alcohol

If it’s cheap and cheerful it might be too good to be true… As it’s Alcohol Awareness Week, we thought we would share some top tips on how to spot fake alcohol that, if consumed, can have some pretty nasty side-effects.

So, what is fake alcohol?

Fake alcohol or ‘counterfeit alcohol’ is made in unlicensed distilleries or homes and intended for sale. This means that you have no idea about what has gone into it and how strong it might be. Drinking it could lead to vomiting, drowsiness, permanent blindness, and in extreme cases, death.

What’s in it?

Counterfeit alcohol is normally laced with substitutes for ethanol including chemicals used in cleaning fluids, nail polish remover and automobile screen wash, as well as methanol and isopropanol which are used in antifreeze and some fuels… doesn’t sound good, right?

How to spot it…

Remember 'the 4 Ps': Place, Price, Packaging and Product.

Place - Always buy your booze from a reputable supermarket, off licence or shop.

Price - You know the score, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Packaging - Look out for…

  1. Poor quality labelling, including things like spelling mistakes.
  1. UK duty stamp—spirits in bottles 35cl or larger and 30% ABV or higher have to have a duty stamp, which indicates that tax has either been paid or is due to be paid on the contents of the bottle. They’re usually incorporated into the label or stuck on the glass. If it’s not there, it’s illegal
  2. Properly sealed caps. If the seal is broken, don’t drink it. Even if it’s not illegal, it could have been tampered with.
  3. Fake bar codes. Get the free barcode scanner app on your Android or iPhone to check the product isn't fake.


Product - Look out for fake versions of well-known brands and be wary of unusual brand names you haven’t seen before. Be extra wary when buying vodka - the most counterfeited spirit.

What to do if you spot it…

If you think you might have consumed fake alcohol, seek medical advice immediately. You should also report it to the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06.

Slightly higher prices might be daunting but it's better to be safe and know what you're drinking.

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By Accommodation Office
09 Nov 2021
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