South Tyneside Council's Environmental Health officers are responding to a nationwide alert to warn shoppers about bottles of vodka which could contain dangerous levels of methanol.
The alert comes from the Food Standards Agency who are urging anyone who may have bought a brand of vodka called "Original Vodka Russia Export Quality, made in Belgium" not to drink it.
Amanda Skelton, Executive Director of Neighbourhood Services, says that although the origin of the vodka is not yet known, it is suspected that it is being sold in the South Tyneside area. Anyone who has a bottle or who sees it on sale should contact Environmental Health or local police.
Elevated levels of methanol should not be present in vodka and if consumed, could cause serious harm to health. Effects of methanol poisoning include abdominal pain, drowsiness and dizziness, blurred vision leading to blindness and breathing difficulties.
Symptoms of methanol poisoning can be delayed for several hours and anyone who thinks they may have drunk this product should seek immediate medical advice.
Two women were admitted to hospital after drinking the suspect vodka in Scotland and both are believed to be seriously ill.
The reverse label of the suspect bottles are marked LO 958, Bar code: 5414145035066.
Councillor Peter Boyack, Lead Member for Neighbourhood Services said: "This is one of a number of instances where criminals are making money from conning the public into buying a product that could cause serious illness including permanent blindness and possibly death. The Council has the power to deal with these people but we need the help of the public to be able to trace them."
Amanda Skelton added: "If anyone has, or knows, of someone selling cheap spirits of any sort either door to door, in the back room of a pub or at the local club then our Environmental Health Officers need to know. The people selling these cheap spirits are not just crooks, they are potential murderers."
The FSA is also warning shoppers to look out for other brands of spirit that are also suspected to have dangerous levels of methanol in them, they are Imperial Valkonov Vodka, Kelvenoff Vodka and counterfeit Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch Whisky (that can be identified by the missing collar label or a collar label saying Distilleries).
To contact South Tyneside Council Environmental Health call Neighbourhood Services on 424 7927.