A whopping 1,800l of illegal wine and more than 600l of spirits and unidentified alcohol was seized as part of the Operation Opson.
There has been a significant increase in UK activity, rising from one seizure of spirits in 2013/14 to 12 seizures in 2014/15.
Working with the international enforcement agencies, UK Trading Standards also closed down an illegal distillery making ‘vodka’ from windscreen wash.
Interpol’s head of trafficking in illicit goods and counterfeiting unit, Michael Ellis, said the operation had taken thousands of tonnes of potentially hazardous food and drink out of circulation.
“Fake and sub-standard food and drink pose a real threat to health and safety. People are at serious risk and in some cases dying because of the greed of criminals whose sole concern is to make money,” said Ellis.
Minister for intellectual property, Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe, a former Tesco board director, said the UK was committed to cracking down on crime that harmed proper businesses and can pose a real threat to public safety.
“Even though we have one of the safest food industries in the world, there are still criminals who want to profit at the expense and safety of others,” she claimed.
“This year’s Operation Opson results show the continued strength of the UK’s enforcement regime, led by Trading Standards and coordinated by the Intellectual Property Office, in protecting consumers and businesses.”
Officers from HM Revenue and Customs and Derbyshire Trading Standards raided the fake vodka site in Heanor, Derbyshire. They seized 27,000 bottles of counterfeited alcohol, 1,215l of Coolex, filtering equipment and branded bottle tops and cardboard boxes.
A small amount of the finished product was identified, and on examination was found to contain high levels of iso-propanol. Isopropyl alcohol (IPA) causes intense drunkenness and is often used in cleaning chemicals.
Professor Tony Hines, director of crisis management at Leatherhead Food Research, said: “IPA poisoning causes confusion and can be very painful.
“Appreciating the difference between excessive alcohol consumption, ‘binge drinking’ for example and IPA consumption, even at low levels, a ‘couple of doubles’ will cause dizziness, low blood pressure, abdominal pain and nausea.”
A final report on Opson IV will be prepared for circulation within the UK following a debrief session in April 2015.