In recent years, Northern Ireland has developed a reputation as the counterfeit capital of the UK and worryingly, fake alcohol forms part of this scene. After the recent prosecution of a local business found selling illegal alcohol, this is becoming a growing concern for the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland.
Today, the FSA in NI is warning of the harmful effects of fake alcohol and urging the food and drink industry to be aware of the signs of illegal produce. Made with chemicals used in screenwash, anti-freeze and nail polish remover, it can leave those who drink it blind, in a coma or even dead.
Businesses have a duty of responsibility to ensure the drinks that they serve, are what they say they are.
To help the industry identify fake alcohol, the FSA has developed a memorable set of four points to remember, each starting with the letter 'P':
1. Product: vodka is the most counterfeited spirit. Watch out for fake versions as well as brand names you have never heard of.
2. Price: when alcohol is cheap - really, really cheap - it probably isn't alcohol. If the price looks too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Packaging: watch out for poor quality labelling including spelling mistakes and tampered bottles. These are some of the tell-tale signs that the product is a fake.
4. Place: only buy from a reputable supplier or wholesaler. Counterfeit and substandard alcohol products are primarily sold through small organisations or by private individuals to associates.
The hospitality industry counts for 11% of the UK economy. Any implication that Northern Ireland food and drink has associations with criminality, damages the reputation of the whole industry, with long-term negative economic consequences.
For more information on fake alcohol visit: www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/campaigns/fake- alcohol. Alternatively, you can join the FSA in NI's conversation at facebook.com/FSAInNI or Twitter @FSAinNI