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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 20:53 GMT
Festive warning over fake vodka
Bottles of counterfeit Kirov vodka
The fake spirits were found to contain high levels of methanol
The discovery of potentially lethal levels of methanol in bottles of counterfeit vodka has led to food safety experts issuing an urgent warning to Christmas consumers.

Officials are concerned that bottles of fake Kirov vodka could be on sale across England.

The contaminated vodka was initially discovered after a seizure by Customs and Excise officials at an off licence in Sidcup, Kent.

Local authorities across the country are now issuing warnings to consumers to be aware of the danger.

Two different sized bottles - 70 cl and 35 cl - were sampled and found to be contaminated with methanol.

'Serious health risk'

The larger bottle was heavily contaminated with methanol and a Food Standards Agency (FSA) spokesman said it would "present a serious health risk if consumed in sufficient quantity".

Trading standards officers in Staffordshire and Shropshire have already issued alerts to the public and advised consumers of the possible symptoms of methanol poisoning.

With Christmas approaching, consumers need to be on their guard - a Christmas drink of this vodka could prove to be lethal
Staffordshire County Council spokesman
These include severe abdominal pain, drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision leading to blindness and coma with breathing difficulties.

Food safety experts also warn that the symptoms of methanol poisoning can be delayed for several hours, so anyone who may have drunk these spirits may not immediately be aware of the dangers.

Anyone who thinks they may have drunk the product should seek immediate medical advice, the FSA warned.

'On their guard'

A spokesman for Staffordshire County Council said it had issued the warning following the national alert in case anyone in the county had purchased a bottle of the vodka.

He said: "Anyone who has a bottle or who sees it on sale or is offered quantities for retail sale should contact us.

"With Christmas approaching, consumers need to be on their guard.

"A Christmas drink of this vodka could prove to be lethal."

Fake spirits

The warnings are the latest in a series of alerts over fake spirits.

A 42-year-old woman died in Edinburgh after drinking counterfeit vodka in March.

Like the genuine bottles of Kirov vodka the fake spirits comes in a clear bottle with a red screw top.

However, the counterfeit bottles do not have a double-headed eagle and the Kirov name imprinted on the bottle top.

Genuine bottles also have a lot code marked in black ink on the neck of the bottles, unlike the fake spirits.

Illegal vodka claims woman's life
23 Mar 03  |  Scotland
Council fears danger vodka on sale
05 Mar 03  |  England
Contaminated vodka alert
28 Feb 03  |  Health

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