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Caithness.org News Bulletins -  November 2002

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Environmental Health officers of The Highland Council are warning both the licensed trade and the public to be vigilant when buying alcohol over the Christmas period.  They warn there have been recent instances of counterfeit alcohol being sold, which contains potentially poisonous substances, and strongly advise that purchases should be made only from recognised sources.

Only last week, the Food Standards Agency issued a warning about counterfeit Johnnie Walker Black Label Whisky, which had been found in England. It contained methanol at 2,000 times the normal level, which can cause serious harm to the body including severe abdominal pain, drowsiness, blurred vision,
leading to blindness, and the risk of coma.

Alan Yates, Principal Food Safety Officer with The Highland Councils TEC Services, said: "Although none of that product identified in England has been found in Scotland, people should avoid buying any alcohol from any dubious sources.  People should always ask themselves why they are being offered a product so cheaply.  What may seem a bargain may cause serious health problems.

Anyone with concerns should contact their local Environmental Health Office."  Environmental Health officers will also be carrying out alcohol sampling from licensed premises in the run up to Christmas to ensure consumers are getting the spirits they request.  The regular sampling programme is carried out to ensure 'substitution' is not occurring. The practice of substituting cheap, sometimes bootlegged, spirits into branded spirit bottles for resale in pubs, clubs, restaurants and bars is known as 'tipping' in the trade.

Although estimated UK-wide rates have dropped from 1 in 12 outlets in 1999, to an estimated current figure of 1 in 20 outlets, the practice still costs consumers an estimated 20 million per year".