The dangers of fake alcohol
There is no way of knowing for certain the ingredients contained in fake or illegally produced alcohol, which means that drinking it can lead to anything from nausea, to blindness, and even death.
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Drinking fake alcohol is very risky to your health and could have dangerous consequences. Fake or illegally produced alcohol can lead to anything from nausea to blindness, and even death. That’s because we have no way of knowing for certain how it’s made and what is in it.
Fake or illegally produced alcohol is alcohol that is produced in unlicensed distilleries or people's homes and intended for sale. Properly produced and certified alcoholic drinks will be made using ethanol, whereas production of fake alcohol – according to the Food Standards Agency – is more likely to use cheaper versions of alcohol, and contain potentially even more dangerous chemicals.1
It is illegal to distil and sell alcohol to the public in the UK without a license from HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).2
Properly produced and certified alcoholic drinks are made with ethanol – this is a type of alcohol that’s associated with lowest risk if drunk within the UK CMOs' low risk guidelines. But fake alcoholic drinks can be produced using other types of alcohol, which may have even more serious, adverse effects on your health.
Illegally produced alcohol should never be drunk. There is no way to know what chemicals are in it and how it’s been made. You also won’t know how strong it is because it has not been produced to the standards of commercially produced alcoholic drinks. So you could become seriously intoxicated and acutely unwell at much lower than expected levels of consumption. Learn more about the symptoms and risks of alcohol poisoning.
There are several ways to spot fake alcohol, but remember, if you’re in any doubt, the best advice is never to buy it or drink it:
If you think you’ve drunk fake alcohol, seek medical advice by calling 111. If you feel very unwell, let them know without delay.
Or if you’ve seen for sale or been offered fake alcohol, you can report it to your local Trading Standards office who will report it to the National Food Crime Unit (NFCU). You can also call Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133 or the Customs Hotline on 0845 010 9000.
Or, you can report it 100% anonymously to the Alcohol Fraud Line on 0800 234 6388, or by visiting www.alcoholfraudline.com – powered by the charity Crimestoppers in partnership with WSTA. 100% anonymous. Always. Speak up. Stay safe.
Last Reviewed: 8th March 2021
Next Review due: 8th March 2024