Illegal and counterfeit alcohol

Drinking fake alcohol can have serious health consequences.

What is fake alcohol?

Fake alcohol means drinks containing alcohol that are produced illegally. It’s typically made to look like well-known brands, and is often labelled as market-leading, low-to-medium priced vodkas and wine.

Did you know?

Fake products often have links to organised crime.

Health risks from drinking fake alcohol

Although the taste can seem right, the contents, strength and quality of fake alcohol can have serious adverse health effects.

Illegally-produced alcohol is never safe to drink. There’s no way to know:

  • what chemicals have been added to it
  • how it’s been made
  • the percentage of alcohol in it

Drinking fake alcohol can lead to a wide range of symptoms. These could include nausea, blindness, and even death. We have no way of knowing how the alcohol has been produced and what is in it.

 Learn more about the symptoms and risks of alcohol poisoning.

How to spot fake alcohol

Keep you, your friends and family safe by knowing how to spot fake alcohol before you buy it.

There are several ways to spot fake alcohol.

The price is too good to be true

The most obvious sign that a product isn’t what it says on the label is a very low price. It should set off an alarm bell immediately and you should ask yourself ‘why’.

Suspicious labelling

Check for poor-looking labels and spelling errors. These often indicate the product is fake.

Unfamiliar brand names

Beware of brand names you’ve never heard of. It’s always best to buy alcoholic drinks from retailers you know and trust.

Vodka and wine

Vodka and wine are the most commonly counterfeited alcoholic drinks. Vodka should look completely clear, with no particles or sediment visible in the bottle. Avoid any vodka products that aren’t completely clear.

Taste and smell

If the alcohol tastes or smells bad, don't drink it.

Broken seal

Check the cap is sealed properly.  If the seal is broken, don’t drink it. Even if it’s not illegal, it could have been tampered with.

Remember, if you’re in any doubt, the best advice is not to buy or drink it.

What to do if you spot fake alcohol

If you think you have consumed fake alcohol, seek medical advice by calling 111.

If you feel unwell or suspect poisoning from drinking fake alcohol, please seek urgent medical advice by dialling 999.

If you see any products containing alcohol you think could be fake, report them anonymously.

You can report a food crime to the Scottish Food Crime Hotline (run in partnership with Crimestoppers) by:

Contact the Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit

Food crime can affect you and those closest to you. Take the time to report it by phone or online.