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How to not fall victim to bootleg booze

Traceability and product authenticity are subjects which crop up with alarming regularity. We’ve seen reports of olive leaves used as a substitute for oregano, turkey being passed off as ham on takeaway pizzas, horsemeat used instead of beef in burgers and lasagne and many more. None of these examples will actually cause harm, unless you happen to be allergic to any of the items. They are simply a way of making product go further and eliciting a greater profit for the unscrupulous vendors.

There are, however, far more serious examples, especially within the spirits trade. Vodka containing chemicals used in anti-freeze and car windscreen wash, nail polish remover and cleaning fluids have been used to replace ethanol in fake vodka seized in various retail outlets in the UK. This is clearly extremely dangerous and can cause vomiting, blindness, kidney or liver problems and in severe cases, coma.

The vodka is generally distributed throughout independent retailers and often bears labels of popular brands such as Smirnoff and Glen. So how do you know if what you’re buying is fake or the real McCoy?

vodka8 ways to check if vodka is fake or fine

  1. Check to make sure the seal on the bottle is intact. If it’s been tampered with, don’t buy it.
  2. Are there spelling mistakes on the label? This is a huge giveaway – proofreaders don’t tend to be employed by illegal drinks producers…
  3. If it’s a brand of vodka you’ve never heard of, Google it to find out more
  4. Is it really cheap or have you bought it ‘under the counter?’ If so, be wary. Decent vodka is expensive.
  5. Can you see sediment at the bottom of the bottle? This is a sign that the vodka is counterfeit. Genuine vodka is always crystal clear
  6. How does it smell? If it smells of nail polish remover, then it probably contains it – don’t drink it. You can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau if you suspect you’ve shelled out for fake vodka.
  7. A handy little phone app can also help you to know if the branded vodka you’re buying is pukka. You can download a barcode scanner which will let you know if the barcode on the product checks out.
  8. Finally, always try to buy from a reputable supermarket or retailer. Larger concerns have stringent checks in place and buy products from reliable sources.

Take a TACCP workshop

If you’re a retailer or a producer of drinks or food, to protect your reputation and the health of consumers it’s essential that you are alert to the potential for fraud within your production facility or supply chain. People involved in food crimes range from disgruntled employees, irrational individuals, and opportunists looking to make a quick buck; to extortionists, extremists and even organised crime gangs.

Whilst it’s impossible to guarantee that food and food supply chains are not the target of criminal activity; taking TACCP (Threat Assessment Critical Control Points) training can help to reduce the likelihood or consequences of a deliberate attack