The caution follows the discovery of an illegal distillery in Hackney,
east London, that was producing huge quantities of fake vodka.
The bottles, which were labelled Kirov Vodka and Glen's Vodka to copy genuine brands, contained high levels of methanol which can lead to abdominal pain, blindness, coma and even prove fatal.
Four men - one from Milton Keynes, another from Newport in south Wales and two Polish nationals - were arrested in a surprise swoop by Customs officers†on June 27. All four men have been bailed pending further investigations.
Clive Cottrell, senior investigation officer for
Revenue & Customs, said: "We†are reminding people not to buy alcohol from any unlicensed source or location or at what seem like bargain prices, as it is likely to be illicit and spirits could be counterfeit and harmful, even lethal."
Retailers in Prescot, Liverpool, are also being urged to look out for bottles of bootleg alcohol after Knowsley Environmental Health
& Consumer Protection Service in partnership with Customs officials seized a substantial quantity of counterfeit vodka.
Steve Parfett, managing director of Cheshire-based cash and carry Parfetts, said the government's failure to deal with the increase in duty fraud has lead to a rise in the amount of illegal spirits on the†market.
"People going around flogging their illegal wares is so
ingrained and it 's legitimised by the government's failure to do anything about duty fraud.
There have been a lot of
instances of this happening recently," he said.
Graham Bateman, deputy director of the Gin & Vodka Association, added: "There seems to be a marked growth in the number of illegal distilleries. We are seeing moves in the industry for a more concerted effort to make sure this stuff isn't easily available. It can be†very†dangerous."