TRADING standards officers swooped on 18 shops across Buckinghamshire and seized counterfeit and ‘grey import’ alcohol from four of them.

Their action was part of a joint operation with 10 other local authorities in south east England, that targeted 246 shops. Seizures were made at 19 shops overall. One of the shops where the booze was seized was in High Wycombe.

Officers have this week issued a warning to festive season shoppers to be alert to counterfeit alcohol on the market.

Gina Green, Buckinghamshire County Council Trading Standards Team Leader, said: “Bootleg booze makers usually add methanol because it's clear and odourless. But after a few hours it can induce severe stomach ache, dizziness, blurred vision, breathing difficulties, and coma. What's more, these concoctions are often created in very unhygienic conditions.”

Gina said that although it is not easy for people to identify counterfeits on the shelves, once opened the smell or taste could give it away. With ‘grey imports’, customers should look for wonky labels and tell-tale excess glue, and also compare the fill levels of bottles on the shelf.

Martin Phillips, cabinet member for community engagement, said: “We need to be particularly vigilant around the festive season and I have the greatest confidence in our Trading Standards teams who act speedily in their fight against counterfeits that could be dangerous to our residents.”

Shops from which the bottles of counterfeit Champagne, vodka and wine were seized were in Denham, High Wycombe and Buckingham. Gina said her team was advising traders to ensure they ordered stock from trustworthy sources.

Shoppers who suspect counterfeits or grey imports are on sale can report this on 08454 040506.