THE Food Safety Authority of Ireland has issued an alert over fake vodka -- but has refused to tell consumers which pubs and shops have been found selling it.
The FSAI issued an alert yesterday warning consumers not to drink from any inauthentic-looking bottles of Smirnoff Red Label vodka as it could contain contaminants.
It said it had identified a small quantity of counterfeit Smirnoff Red Label one-litre bottles of vodka following a tip-off from the UK's Food Standards Agency.
Tests so far had not shown any harmful ingredients, although the fake vodka had a lower alcohol content than real Smirnoff. The fake Smirnoff is labelled 'Produced in Ireland' and has an Irish address, whereas real Smirnoff states 'Produced in the United Kingdom' and has a British address.
However, consumers may have old bottles of Smirnoff vodka purchased over 18 months ago that will legitimately state "Produced in Ireland" as that was the case then - so there's no problem with these.
FSAI chief executive Professor Alan Reilly said that analysis carried out on the counterfeit product had not identified specific food safety hazards.
"However, the source of the alcohol is unknown and there may be contaminants in other batches," he said.
"Given we have no information as to when or where this alcohol originates from, it would be unwise for anyone to drink it," he said.
The counterfeit vodka was found on sale in the retail and pub sectors. However, the FSAI refused to name the premises where it had been found or to say how many outlets had been selling the counterfeit vodka.
"We cannot disclose this information because it could jeopardise our investigation," a spokesperson said.
The FSAI warned businesses that they were legally responsible for making sure food and drink they sold was safe and traceable. "Food businesses should only source stock from registered distributors and wholesalers, as it is their legal responsibility to ensure the food and drink they are selling complies with all food safety and traceability requirements," said Prof Reilly.
Although laboratory tests on this counterfeit alcohol have not shown it to be harmful, fake alcohol can pose a serious health risk. Close to 50 people died in the Czech Republic last year from drinking fake alcohol that contained lethal methanol.
Consumers concerned about the taste or packaging of vodka they purchased should call the Diageo Consumer Care Helpline on 1850 250000 or visit the website fsai.ie.