A record number of off licences are selling potentially deadly alcohol in Sheffield.
Fake vodka containing banned chemicals such as chloroform and isopropanol – a substance usually found in cleaning fluids – has been discovered in thousands of bottles of vodka.
Trading standards said that the illegal alcohol trade has never been higher in the city.
Statistics show the number of premises under investigation has increased by 566 per cent over the past year – increasing from three in the previous year to 17.
Senior trading standards officer Craig Fisher said Sheffield was a hotspot for the crime.
He said: “The Yorkshire and Humber area has got quite a high problem with it. We are a hotspot for it; we don’t know the reasons.
“With the vodka I don’t think [people] realise they are buying a product that isn’t actually vodka and they are quite shocked to find out that it’s got these nasty chemicals in there.
“We don’t know the long term effects of consuming these industrial contaminants.”
The illegal vodka can cause serious health problems including unconsciousness, hypothermia and blue-tinged skin.
Raids on illegal alcohol factories in the area have found tap water being used to dilute the vodka instead of industry standard distilled water.
Chloroform was also found to be used to give the product a crystal clear aesthetic.
However, the chemical has been linked to the development of cancer in later life.
Lisa Marsden, Sheffield’s tobacco and alcohol enforcement officer, said the economic downturn and escalating unemployment was driving people to distil or smuggle the illegal vodka.
She said there was a “profit to be made” from the black market.
Marsden said: “Drug smuggling has become low value yet the risks associated with drug smuggling are still quite high. Whereas with tobacco and alcohol it’s the reverse – there’s quite a lot of profit to be made.”
Officers in Sheffield are also dealing with a rise in the number of counterfeit cigarettes being sold in the area.
There have even been reported cases of tobacco being smuggled in from abroad and sold outside school gates to children.