Counterfeit Booze Spiked with Anti-Freeze Hits UK

By Will Godfrey 07/22/11
Sobriety, here we come. Photo via

Given the booming trade in counterfeit alcohol, It's often joked that more bottles of Johnnie Walker are consumed every day in Bombay than are produced every year in Scotland. But this time it's drinkers in Britain who are being forced to take their chances with counterfeit liquor. According to a report on Sky News, Lincoln County Hospital in Northern England has seen a growing number of emergency room patients who have drunk fake alcohol brands containing such stomach-stripping ingredients as antifreeze, screen-wash and cleaning fluid. Symptoms include "severe" abdominal pains, and the risk of blindness, kidney failure and death. It's a problem that's been increasing around the country—last year six men were jailed after a fake vodka factory capable of cranking out 24 bottles a minute was raided in Hackney, a neighborhood in East London. The authorities' appetite to investigate is whetted by the UK's annual loss of £600 million in tax revenue due to alcohol fraud; in a recent raid they seized quantities of pseudo-"Smirnoff" containing isopropanol, a solvent used for cleaning electronic devices and dissolving oils. Victims often wrongly assume that their drinks have been spiked, rather than question the brand-name on the bottle. The English epidemic has a long way to go to match the one in Russia in 2006, however, when hundreds of drinkers died from hepatitis or liver failure, thanks to a fake vodka that had been laced with deadly household agents by callous bootleggers. 

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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.

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