News item

Licensee fined for substituting vodka

A licensee who filled an empty bottle of premium vodka with an alternative brand has been prosecuted by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Trading Standards Team.

The issue at the Royal Oak in Aberdare was uncovered as part of the proactive inspection work that is carried out by Trading Standards on  behalf of consumers and the wider public, to ensure they are getting what they pay for and that the law has been upheld.

A routine inspection of the premises in Incline Top in August 2013 led to inspections of a bottle of Smirnoff displayed in the bar, about which officers had suspicions. Further tests proved the vodka in the bottle was not Smirnoff at all, but an alternative brand.

As a result of the offence, licensee Susan Jenkins was charged with an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990 for refilling an empty premium brand vodka with another, alternative vodka. 

This is known in the practice as substitution and is a serious issue, as it means customers are not getting the product they think they are paying for and it also harms the alcohol industry and the business of those who do work hard to uphold the law and ensure all products they sell are correctly labelled.

During the visit, officers also discovered the premise had failed to display a notice informing customers that genetically-modified vegetable oil was being used to cook food, contrary to the Genetically Modified Food (Wales) Regulations 2005 and also to display a weights and measures notice that gin, rum, vodka and whisky was being offered for sale in 25ml measures, contrary to the Weights and Measures (Intoxicating Liquor) Order 1988.

As a result, Mrs Jenkins was charged with three offences, which she admitted when she appeared before Pontypridd Magistrates’ Court on 12 September.

She was ordered to pay a total of £1015, which included a fine of £650, costs of £300 and a victim surcharge of £65.  

David Jones, Head of Community Protection at Rhondda Cynon Taf Council said: “Trading Standards Officers regularly visit licensed premises and test spirits for substitution and watering down, it forms part of our wider work to protect consumers and those businesses that strive to operate legally.

“Spirit substitution not only deceives consumers, but also has a negative impact on the brand holders and creates an unfair advantage over other pubs, clubs and restaurants that are trading fairly.

“I hope this case serves as a reassurance that we are working proactively to protect consumers, residents and businesses and also serves as a reminder to all in the licensed trade that there are standards we do expect. We will work with you proactively to help you meet and maintain those standards – but we will also take action where we need to.”


DATE: 19 September 2014