Sheffield crackdown on illicit and poisonous booze in award final

Some of the illicit alcohol seized by Sheffield's trading standards team
Some of the illicit alcohol seized by Sheffield's trading standards team

A crackdown on sales of poisonous booze in Sheffield which left drinkers in hospital is in the running for a prestigious award.

In 2011, large amounts of illicit industrial alcohol began to be found by Sheffield Council’s trading standards officers.

Cheap spirits were targeted at small retailers in deprived or student areas – while doctors were seeing unusual symptoms in A&E that could be caused by drinking counterfeit alcohol.

Some poisonous industrial alcohol was badged to look like legitimate brands.

Tests found contamination with chloroform, iso-pentanol, iso-propanol and tertiary butanol – none of which are permitted in food.

Alcohol contents was also found to be as high as 52 per cent on products declared at 37.5 per cent.

Ian Ashmore, head of environmental regulation at Sheffield Council, said: “There are serious acute and chronic health impacts of these products. We were angry and appalled that they were being offered for sale, and knew we had to act.”

A multi-agency team was formed to raise awareness, carry out more inspections of premises and seize illicit alcohol while education was provided to children.

The number of illicit bottles of alcohol found for sale in Sheffield fell from 2,420 in 2013-14 to 357 in 2014-15 – with no industrial alcohol found.

The team is now in the finals of the national Municipal Journal Achievement Awards for its work.

Mr Ashmore said staff were ‘delighted’ to be shortlisted.

He added: “More importantly, we’re pleased the work we have done appears to have been successful in tackling the problem of industrial alcohol being sold unwittingly to drinkers.”