Fake booze seizures rocket 27%... with vodka to the fore

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The volume of fake booze on sale in stores in England and Wales has risen sharply despite a crackdown by Customs.

The Food Standards Agency this week revealed a 27% increase in May and June in the number of reported incidents involving the sale or seizure of counterfeit alcohol - mostly vodka.

Fake alcohol accounted for almost half (45%) of the 170 cases reported to the FSA’s Food Fraud Database, against 23% of the 238 reported in the same period last year.

In March, HMRC revealed plans to punish retailers found selling counterfeit alcohol by having their liquor licences removed. However, the move has been limited to pilots, with the majority of those caught escaping with fines and confiscation.

In February, The Grocer joined a raid by HMRC, Trading Standards and police in Brighton, which led to the seizure of counterfeit “Soviet Vodka”, containing potential lethal ingredients.

Alcohol fraud costs the UK economy £1bn in lost revenue each year, according to the FSA. Seizures of fakes are estimated to have rocketed almost 400% since 2009.

Five men were killed when an illegal vodka distillery in Lincolnshire exploded last summer. And earlier this year a Sheffield University student was left with damaged eyesight after drinking fake vodka.

A HMRC spokeswoman said it was working with other enforcement agencies to combat counterfeit alcohol: “Working collaboratively allows a much wider range of powers and sanctions to be applied.”

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