DRINKERS are being warned that “extremely dangerous” bogus booze could be on sale across the county.
It comes as an off-licence owner was fined a record amount in Oxfordshire for selling counterfeit alcohol.
Oxfordshire County Council’s Trading Standards Team has seized 227 bottles of fake wine and eight bottles of vodka since June last year.
And last night it warned they could be contaminated with chemicals.
About £2,000 worth of counterfeit alcohol was seized from Ansh Food and Wine in Chinnor in April. The haul included 147 bottles of fake Blossom Hill wine, 28 bottles of counterfeit Jacob’s Creek wine, and one bottle of fake vodka.
Store owner Paramjit Singh Khiali was fined £9,250 and £1,941 costs at Oxford Magistrates’ Court last week after he admitted eight charges under the food safety and trade mark laws.
He admitted buying alcohol on three occasions without doing proper checks.
The 47-year-old was caught after a customer alerted Trading Standards after buying some fake wine.
Mr Khiali told the Oxford Mail that he did not know the alcohol was counterfeit and he was sorry for his mistake.
Shop assistant Kultar Singh said the fine would hurt the business. He said: “It was a mistake. We did not realise. I know if I sell bad stuff we will lose customers.”
Trading Standards can now call for the shop’s licence to be reviewed.
Its head Richard Webb said fake booze was becoming more widespread.
“It’s a problem across the whole country, but we are starting to see more cases of counterfeit alcohol being distributed across Oxfordshire.”
Of Mr Khaili’s fine, he added: “We are pleased with the result, and it shows that the court takes matters of counterfeit alcohol very seriously.
“The high fine reflects the importance of being able to trace the supply chain for products so that any unsafe goods can be quickly removed from the market.
“Businesses should only buy their stock from legitimate source; otherwise there are potential serious consequences for any retailer.”
Trading Standards is now analysing the seized bottles to determine if they contained any dangerous chemicals.
Judith Heathcoat, council cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, said: “Counterfeit alcohol can be extremely dangerous as it is usually mixed with chemicals that aren’t fit for consumption.”
Three bottles of illegal vodka were seized from the 7 to 9 store in Oxford Road, Cowley, in October last year and the shop was given a warning.
Trading Standards said it was not known where the alcohol was coming from, but said some cold callers turn up at off-licences claiming their businesses have closed and they are selling stock.
Abingdon GP Dr Prit Buttar said counterfeit booze could be contaminated with a range of dangerous chemicals.
He said: “Methanol can blind permanently. Some of the other contaminants can cause irreparable damage and if it was somebody with a history of heavy alcohol consumption then that would make the toxic effect greater.”
If you think a product is counterfeit, call Trading Standards via Citizens Advice Consumer helpline on 08454 040506.