Dying for a Drink?

With Christmas fast approaching many of us are thinking of stocking up on a few bottles of something for the festive season. But did you know that in some parts of the World around 30% of alcohol sold is counterfeit? Cheaply made and distilled vodka, whisky and rum are regularly sold in copy or “look alike” bottles endangering thousands of lives. Counterfeit booze is often riddled with a bizarre and sometimes a dangerous cocktail of flavourings to make it taste and smell like the real alcohol it is intended to mimic. The base of such drinks is often dangerously strong distilled pure alcohol and this kind of chemical blend can cause blindness, brain damage and even death in some instances from alcohol poisoning.

Drinks manufacturers are trying hard to stop this trade which not only affects them but also deprives the Government of tax revenues. Whilst neither of these revenue problems cause many consumers sleepless nights, the effect on society of cheaply available booze isn’t difficult to see. The writers view is that in fact the real problem is our attitude to drink – not its cost. Any addict will tell you that the cost of their addiction becomes irrelevant when compared to their drive to get their hands on something. A minimum price for alcohol is not the answer either. Surely it is only likely to fuel the sales of counterfeit booze? But since when has it become only a “good night out” when you become almost incapable of remembering getting home? I like a drink – but perhaps my emphasis is on a drink and not a dozen or so. Who wants to wake up ill or having a hangover?

The big brand owners in the drinks industry are trying numerous tricks to counter the dangerous counterfeiting trade and give consumers a clear indication of what is or is not genuine product. By way of example, some spirit bottles now contain one way stoppers at the neck which stop bottles from being refilled. Other brands have hologram labels, or unusual art work which is difficult to copy. I have some rather hilarious photographs in my office of counterfeit whisky labels photographed in China – with their very amusing mistakes and typos.

In Hong Kong and China, the trade in counterfeit high value wine is such a problem, that auction houses and some restaurants smash the bottles after the original expensive wine has been consumed to stop the bottles from being refilled with cheap counterfeit wine. This has some limited effect but the demand for high quality wine in China remains unchanged by the illegal activities of a few. The Chinese economy, driven by our desire for cheaply made mass produced goods is somewhat countered balanced by their demand for high value European made products – ironic isn’t it?

Well I’m afraid there won’t be too many expensive wines or spirits in my house over Christmas – although there will be some drinks in! I’m just off to Morrison’s however; to make sure they are genuine bargains!


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