Intended for healthcare professionals


Illegally produced alcohol

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 21 February 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1146
  1. Martin McKee, professor of European public health1,
  2. Roza Adany, professor of public health2,
  3. David A Leon, professor of epidemiology1
  1. 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1H 9SH, UK
  2. 2Department of Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Public Health, Medical and Health Sciences Centre, University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary
  1. martin.mckee{at}

Is increasingly available in the UK and will add to alcohol’s already great threat to public health

On New Year’s Eve 2011, the UK Local Government Association warned about the risks from illegally produced alcohol, reporting that trading standards officers had seized substantial quantities of products containing high levels of dangerous contaminants such as methanol, chloroform, and propan-2-ol.1 In 2011, five Lithuanian men died in a fire in a lock-up garage in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, when their alcohol producing equipment exploded. Three lorry loads of spirits falsely labelled as Smirnoff were found nearby.2 The scale and nature of illegal alcohol production and sale are impossible to ascertain with certainty, but the UK customs authorities believe the problem is increasing and, in association with the UK Border Agency, have recently updated their strategy to tackle it.3

Spirits have long been produced illegally in the British Isles. Examples include poitín in Ireland and peat reek in Scotland. However, since the expansion of the European Union in 2004, concern has focused on a range of legal and illegal products associated, …

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