The Food Standards Agency has warned fake bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Whisky contain "unacceptable levels" of an alcohol fuel which can cause stomach upsets and blindness.
A fake bottle of Johnnie Walker
Counterfeit bottles containing high levels of methanol were found this week when police and Customs and Excise officers raided a bottling plant in Berkshire this week.
Anyone drinking the amount of methanol found in the fake whisky would risk seriously harming themselves.
The effects of methanol poisoning include severe abdominal pain, drowsiness, dizziness and blurred vision leading to blindness.
At higher levels it can also lead to breathing difficulties and coma.
We strongly advise people to check that they have the genuine article
David Statham, the FSA's director of enforcement and food standards, warned: "Tests carried out on the counterfeit whisky show that it has been contaminated with methanol.
"At the levels detected, consumers would be at risk of harmful effects including severe stomach pain and blindness."
He added: "The fake whisky should be avoided and anyone who thinks they may have drunk some within the last 24 hours should contact their doctor.
"We strongly advise people to check that they have the genuine article, rather than this latest version of fake Johnnie Walker."
During the Berkshire raid, officers also found fake labels for Highland Pride Whisky.
The FSA is warning anyone who thinks they may have counterfeit bottles not to drink it, as it has not been possible to carry out safety tests on the product.
Anyone who has bottles should take them to their local authority for investigation, the FSA said.
All local authorities have now received a Food Hazard Warning asking them to ensure that contaminated products are not on sale in their area. If found, the bottles will be removed from sale and destroyed.
It is possible to distinguish between the fakes and the genuine products in several ways.
The fake Johnnie Walker bottles have:
- Writing in Spanish on the rear label, unlike the genuine product,
- A fake lot code "L04P24878342" is also printed on the rear of the front centre label,
- No "E mark" on their base between "700ml and 73mm".
The counterfeit bottles found this week also do not have a neck label, unlike the genuine article. Previous fakes found in November did have a neck label but the word 'distillers' was wrongly spelt as 'distilleries'.
Fake bottles of Highland Pride Finest Scotch Whisky have the following mistakes:
- They read "1 L" and "40% vol" instead of "1 litre" and "43% Vol." on genuine bottles,
The fakes have small numbers on both sides of the label instead of small numbers on just the right hand side,
- The fake says "Produced and bottled in Scotland" instead of "Bottled in Scotland",
- The fake has "Highland Pride" written on two lines on the back of the bottle instead of one,
- The fake has a line between "Highland Pride" and "Finest Scotch Whisky" which should not be there,
- The real bar code is 5011311023645 instead of 5011311221171,
The fake version has a recycle sign which should not be there, and its labels are self-adhesive when ones on genuine bottles are not.