Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA Press Release (2002/0269), 5 November 2002

CONTAMINANTS - Agency warns against drinking contaminated whisky

The Food Standards Agency is today warning people not to drink counterfeit bottles of Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky as it has been found to be contaminated with unacceptable levels of methanol.

Methanol should not be present in the whisky at the levels it has been found and could cause serious harm. Effects of methanol poisoning include severe abdominal pain, drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision leading to blindness and the risk of coma with breathing difficulties.

The whisky is counterfeit and should not be drunk.

The symptoms of methanol poisoning can be delayed for several hours so anyone who has drunk this product may not be immediately aware of the dangers.

Andrew Wadge, Head of Chemical Safety and Toxicology said: 'Tests carried out on the counterfeit whisky show that it has been contaminated with methanol.
'At these levels detected, consumers would be at risk of harmful effects including severe stomach pain, vomiting and blindness. We strongly advise people to check bottles that they may have at home to ensure that they have the genuine product. The counterfeit product should be avoided and anyone who thinks they may have drunk it within the last 24 hours should contact their doctor.'

The counterfeit bottles can be identified from genuine Johnnie Walker Black Label whisky by a number of subtle differences. These include:

Details, along with pictures comparing the counterfeit and genuine bottles can be found on the Agency website.

The Agency was alerted to the problem by the London Borough of Hackney, after a member of the public made a complaint to the distributors of Johnnie Walker Black Label, Diageo Great Britain Ltd. Diageo have confirmed that this is not a genuine product. Both the packaging and liquid are counterfeit. The Agency has no information on the source or origin of this counterfeit product or possible distribution. To date, 50 counterfeit bottles have been found on sale only in the Hackney area but it is possible that the whisky is on sale elsewhere in the country.

A Food Hazard Warning has been issued to all Local Authorities across the UK asking them to ensure this product is not on sale in their area. If it is found, they will ensure it is removed from sale and destroyed.

Anyone who has the counterfeit product at home should contact their local authority enforcement officers.

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